UHR, GSS strike JFC cultural food footnote

Photo by Caity Murphy

Last Tuesday, both Student Government Association (SGA) legislative bodies met individually to discuss changes to Joint Finance Committee (JFC) policy.

Much of the discussion of the proposed alterations was in regards to the removal of the line, “While funding for food is not permitted per JFC policy, organizations are still able to receive funding for events or initiatives per the legislature’s discretion” within the “cultural” subsection of “Section 4: Specific Exemptions.” Officially, no food can be funded by JFC policy, but in practice, the legislative bodies have sometimes made the decision to waive policy in order to allocate funding for the purchase of food for a cultural event. The line was in place to signal various cultural student organizations that a request for cultural food funding would be given special consideration by the UHR and GSS.

GSS saw engaged debate on the issue of whether the line should have been reinstated, with the voting blocs almost evenly splitting the body in half. One senator argued that the cultural food expenditures have historically made up a very small portion of SGA’s total budget and that the line was not providing an unreasonable precedent for the funding of all food items. After a discussion in which the Chair of the body had to remind senators not to speak over each other, GSS narrowly decided not to revert the striking of the line.

During discourse on this issue in UHR, the Speaker pro Tempore of UHR, Brian Shin, proposed an amendment to JFC policy which would add the line, “Cultural organizations may request funding for cultural food if the organization can show how the cultural food relates to the event. The event must be advertised and open to all students, and it must have an educational aspect — organizations must submit an educational PowerPoint before meeting with both bodies of the legislature, of which explanation of the food is included.” Shin argued that an exemption such as the one he proposed would allow students to embrace and educate the culture through the food, and that cultural organizations should receive food since other organizations, such as those pertaining to sports, are sometimes allocated funding for special specific items. He added that this amendment would allow cultural organizations to have food for events without UHR and GSS having to waive JFC policy.

A number of representatives voiced their support of this amendment. Morgan Foreman, co-Chair of SGA’s Cultural and Diversity Committee, expressed that she would be interested in seeing a provision which would prevent organizations from advertising cultural food events as being “free food.” She also stated that the educational document or PowerPoint created by the organization should also explain the impact of the food on the culture.

Undergraduate President of SGA Jennifer Abrams stated that the amendment might give rise to the question of whether certain foods are cultural enough. Another representative expressed that he felt Shin’s proposed amendment was too radical of a change to JFC policy. Shin’s amendment was eventually failed by UHR, and the recommended changes regarding the cultural food line from JFC were passed, which involved the aforementioned line being struck by both legislative bodies of SGA during their meetings last Tuesday.

Following this discussion, UHR chose to waive JFC policy in order to fund cultural food on the next two bills that were heard, despite the second having no description on the use of the money.

JFC policy generally serves as a guideline and ruleset for how SGA allocates funding when bills are submitted for consideration. Members of either the Undergraduate House of Representatives (UHR) or the Graduate Student Senate (GSS) may motion to waive JFC policy for any bill, but the motion requires a two-thirds majority to pass. More often than not, JFC policy is adhered to when SGA makes funding decisions on bills.

JFC is a committee chaired by the Vice President of Finance, who sits on both the undergraduate and graduate executive boards.