A possible alternative to the flagrant behavior of UHR

Photo by Casey Gomez

With its most recent meeting, the Undergraduate House of Representatives (UHR) of the Student Government Association (SGA) gave up all pretense of playing by its own rules.

Throughout the night this past Tuesday, a horrendous barrage of fallacies destroyed most any semblance of reason that attempted to present itself. It came in two waves: first, when bills requesting money from the Undergraduate Legislative Reserve (ULR) were discussed and second, during budget discussion.

Now, I have written about ULR, a kind of slush-fund account, before at some length in hopes to either inform the student body about the abuses of its money or at least guilt SGA into better behavior. Despite the fact that this account is nominally to be used “for special SGA initiatives,” it is routinely abused to buy food and for other luxuries.

For example, just before UHR started discussing the actual budgets, they voted on a bill that would allocate $140 in order to pay for pizza for them to eat whilst they discussed the budgets. This is despite the fact that SGA’s own funding policy explicitly denies other student organizations from requesting funding for food. SGA circumvents rule for itself this by funneling some amount of money each year into ULR.

Another bill came up that requested retroactive funding (another prohibited expenditure) for an SGA event’s associated costs. Matthew Daigle, UHR’s parlementarian, raised the point that SGA had previously declared in a resolution two years ago not to use ULR funds for retroactive funding. But there was nothing to fear. UHR, never to be deterred by any form of rules, waived the resolution and passed the bill.

It is obvious to me now that neither of my objectives in previously writing about the abuses of ULR have been achieved. Whether this is simply due to apathy or another reason is uncertain. For now, what is clear is that the vast majority of the representatives in UHR care little about the substance of what is being discussed. Simple observation of a legislative session would indicate even to a blind man that few are even paying attention. Instead, many elect to spend the time during which the allocation of significant sums of money are being voted upon on their phones or Facebook.

Now, I stupidly thought that, since this past Tuesday’s meeting was also UHR’s budget session, there would be more weight given to what was going on. After all, this was the night when more than a million dollars of funding for the budgets of student organizations was at stake.

I say stupidly because there was no difference. Just as with any other UHR meeting, only a pathetically small percentage of the representatives ever deigned to speak.

“Unsustainable” was the word used several times to describe the Technique’s budget proposal. It was raised multiple times by more than one of the few representatives that spoke, so I can only guess that they must have all gone to the same “An Inconvenient Truth” viewing party beforehand. Now, is it worth pointing out how absurd it is to request that student organizations’ budgets be “sustainable?” Does that mean that we are expected to turn a profit? To break even? I’m sorry, but I cannot recall when that became a requirement for all student organizations. In that case, SGA itself has some major explaining to do for its own insolvency. I contend that SGA is the most unsustainable organization of all — it only continues to exist because of the annual cash transfusions from the Student Activity Fee.

All of this brings me to my ultimate proposal, the idea of which came to me at one point during the very meeting which I thought might be the death of any thinking part of my conscious. It was during a speech by Daigle. He was doing his best to waylay a rare reasonable argument from one of the small group that could operate their mouths. Then it hit me — this whole system could be scrapped.

The entire job that the legislative wing of SGA performs could likely be accomplished in an expedited manner by a single trained professional. If we estimate a salary of the position being roughly $60,000, then we can discern that the total cost would be at least comparable once stipend amounts as well as bloated ventures such as ULR are factored into the current expenses of keeping the ship of SGA steaming ahead.

Now, I am not so naive as to believe that this will come to pass. But it is worth bringing up for the reason that many of those in UHR obviously lack motivation. And when the few with motivation clearly are lacking in perspective, the question must be asked: Could we not do better?