Student Association members are raising concerns about the role of the Senate Finance Committee in Tier III budgeting, according to S.A. officials.
This year, the committee rejected 21 Tier III charters, the paperwork needed to obtain unlimited potentially unlimited S.A. funding. That is more than in the previous three years combined.
"I think Finance Committee has overstepped their bounds and taken on responsibilities that belong to others," S.A. President Steven DiMarzo said. "The only reason I signed the Tier III bill was to move the process along."
DiMarzo pointed to new amendments in S.A. law that allow the Finance Committee to reject charters for reasons he described as vague and "without guidelines."
Previously, the committee’s role was largely procedural, making sure paperwork was handed in complete and on time. The only reasons a charter could be rejected were because the organization was not qualified to apply, their application was incomplete or was handed in after deadline. But this year the committee was allowed to reject charters, "based on information in the charter in a viewpoint neutral manner," according to the law. That justification was used to reject applications from many organizations the Finance Committee felt could be better budgeted for as Tier II’s, because they requested money below the Tier II funding cap of $3,500, S.A. Vice President Ajay Lentini said.
However, the law does not intrinsically link tier status and funding—prompting questions about whether such a move was an appropriate use of power. A lawsuit against the committee brought by the Spoken Writer’s Guild will test the constitutionality of the committee’s newfound power. The case will proceed Wednesday, Scott Silver, Chief Justice of S.A.’s Supreme Court said.
The change that granted new discretion to Finance Committee was one of six amendments made to S.A. policy by chairman Kistofer Brandow since September 2010. That is more successful changes to policy than any other senator.
Lentini said the committee was not engaged in a power grab.
"It’s not a huge consolidation of power," Lentini said. "Senate still has the final say…Many of those [rejected] clubs were under $3,500, so theoretically there is no decrease."
Organizations with charters rejected by the committee will not be able to apply for Tier III status, which allows S.A. to allocate them unlimited funds, until next year.