SGA voted on Tuesday to allocate $26,146 to build new bike infrastructure in a move which Graduate Student Body President Anthony Baldridge says illustrates that sustainability initiatives can be handled through Student Activity Fee (SAF) funds. The bill passed the Graduate Student Senate with a vote of 23-6-0 and the Undergraduate House of Representatives with a vote of 43-6-0.
Organized by SGA’s Bicycle Infrastructure Committee (BIC), the bill will fund the construction of new bike lanes on Hemphill Ave. and Ferst Dr. It would also add bike racks to areas outside of the Instructional Center, the Management Building and the Ford Environmental Science & Technology Building. According to Gretchen Goldman, Chair of BIC, Institute Facilities only pays for new bike rack installations, not enchancements to existing ones.
“I really think that this is a great project in terms of sustainability…on campus. It sets a great example for other organizations in terms of the more work you do behind the scenes the more likely your bill is to have a positive reaction from the House of Representatives,” said HTS Rep. Kaitlyn Whiteside, also vice president of Campus Affairs.
The proposed Sustainabilty Fee and Baldridge’s opposition to it underscored the debate in the Senate. AE Sen. Will Runge and CS Sen. David Lillethun asked why students should pay for the installations out of SAF funds instead of having the administration or Parking and Transportaton pay for it. Runge said that having students pay for these improvments would amount to students “bailing out” the administration.
Balrdige clarified that Transportation fee funds may only be used to pay for Stingers, Stingerettes, and other mobile transportation systems. He continued by saying that Senators “have the power to dictate sustainability on campus,” contrasting SGA’s control over the bill process with the proposed Sustainability Fee’s plan of using a separate committee of students and administrators.
“My feeling was that this is something the University should be doing for us…not something we should have to pay for,” Lillethun said. He did vote for the bill, however. “I would rather do this than have a new fee increase,” he said.
“[The bill] entailed this vision of using student government to look into sustainable issues to avoid having to start this sustainability fee…” Baldridge said. Responding to claims that the administration should fund similar improvements, Baldridge said “This is almost our share, if you will, to put into it.”
Despite objections to the contrary by Student Center Programs Council (SCPC) and some members of SGA, the Graduate Senate and
Undergraduate House moved to cut almost $12,000 from a bill which will bring Bill Nye to campus. Both bodies voted to fund the bill at a Joint Finance Committee-recommended level of $13,700 with a vote of 25-6-0 in the Senate and 36-13-0 in the House.
SCPC asked for $25,300 to pay for Nye’s speaker fees. They plan on contributing $10,000 from their budget and raising $4,000 through ticket sales. During debate in the House over whether to cut the bill’s funding, SCPC president Paul Brideau said he was unsure if the group could still bring Nye to campus with the limited funds.
After the meeting, SCPC Vice President of External Relations Louella Lugo said in an email, “Waiving JFC’s policy would put us in an ideal situation, but the SCPC is working with our collaborators in order find alternative funding to ensure this event takes place.”
In the Senate, CS Sen. Daniel Connelly was the only Senator who openly advocated fully funding the bill.
“JFC policy is a good starting point for determining reasonable funding, but it isn’t the Senate’s job to show up, amend per JFC and go home. We are responsible for properly allocating the Student Activity Fee and hosting a high-profile and popular speaker like Bill Nye for the entire student body is exactly the sort of event that we should be supporting,” Connelly said in an email.
Runge was one of the Senators pushing for a cut. “This bill violated policy, and I feel it was appropriate to amend it per policy for two reasons: (1) this represented an excessive subsidy per ticket, and (2) because this is one of the rare organizations that can get the money elsewhere if need be— in this case, by increasing ticket prices,” Runge said in an email.