By Mary Kuberry
Confusion that arose over money student government put toward the Pacer Performance Center has caused the Student Government Association to adopt new guidelines for allocating funds and being more transparent with the student body starting in 2017-18.
Incoming SGA President Ameera Khattab announced the policy changes, which were adopted in the fall, on Class Day April 18. They include holding open meetings and a policy to have the entire SGA vote on budget approvals over $3,000.
The changes came after the William Peace University athletics department received $10,000 from SGA to make improvements and add additional equipment to the athletic center that would be beneficial for not only the student athletes, but for all students on campus.
SGA President Jacob Ennis approved the gift at the request of the athletic department in August, before school had begun and the others members of the SGA could be consulted. SGA policy required the approval of such gifts by the chief financial officer.
SGA frequently makes gifts to student groups and for other projects that benefit students, such as classroom technology. WPU President Brian Ralph, Ph.D., said he believes such gifts have been made over the summer in the past.
In the end, he said, there is a lesson to learn going forward.
“The most important pieces of this situation were to discover that the decisions made were made with good intentions, when the decisions were discussed there was general support and acknowledgment that the process needed improvement, and that a new process was put in place,” said Dr. Ralph.
Ennis, who served as CFO during the 2015-16 school year, said in an email that he allocated the funds after having knowledge of a SGA budget surplus and the desperate need for more improvements to the athletic center.
“I believe that the timing of the request caused issues, being that it came during the summer, so this served as a learning opportunity for those types of situations in the future,” said Ennis, a senior.
Patrick Ralph, CFO for both 2016-17 and 2017-18, learned about the gift in the fall, when there was mention of more money being gifted for the athletic center aside from what was already in the budget.
He brought the question to the full SGA, which did not allocate more funds to the center, but voted to keep the gift in the budget since it was already promised and they had a large surplus.
“I think the new athletic facility is a really great facility. I’m an athlete, and my team has workouts at 8 a.m. there, but the way it was done was not right,” said Patrick Ralph.
“After that, I realized how much authority the CFO had, and we made a motion and voted that anything over $3,000 we would have take to the whole board and talk about.”
The board also adopted policies meant to make its decision-making more open to students, including holding open meetings whenever possible and not holding meetings during the summer when students aren’t on campus.