Student Services Budget Committee

Each semester, thousands of dollars are awarded to graduate school organizations and programs through Graduate Student appropriations.  

The assembly is a legislative student organization comprised of representatives from their respective colleges who create legislation, organize workshops and programs and delegate appropriations to within the graduate school. During the 2013-14 fiscal year, $12,000, or 17.4 percent, of the assembly budget is set aside for these appropriations. This is in comparison to the $24,000, or 34.9 percent, reserved for the executive board stipends for the eight directors. 

Dave Player, a law student whose organization — Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law — was denied appropriations by the assembly, cited specific concerns about the percentage of the budget spent on director stipends and student entertainment in comparison to graduate student organization appropriations. In the interest of disclosure, Player is also a member of the Texas Student Media board, which owns and oversees The Daily Texan. 

“My complaint was not with the appropriations process, but with the entire GSA budget,” Player said. “When I looked at their budget and found they were spending thousands of dollars on pizza and a carnival, I was blown away.”

This year’s budget dedicates $8,000 to a Graduate Student Assembly carnival meant to serve as a community-building event for UT students and their families.

The Student Services Budget Committee allocates the assembly’s budget each year. The committee is comprised of University staff and student representatives. 

The money allocated by the committee consists completely of funds collected from student tuition.

While the assembly budget officially sets aside $6,000 a semester for appropriations, financial director Rebecca Thomas explained if appropriations do exceed this amount, the funds are taken from other parts of the budget. This semester, the awarded appropriations exceeded the budget’s specified amount by $2,000.

“I believe [the assembly] places great importance on providing sufficient appropriations for graduate organizations, but while also realizing that [the assembly] stands to provide many other functions as well,” Thomas said.

Assembly President Columbia Mishra said the purpose of the assembly is to protect graduate student interests and to enhance the graduate student experience. 

“These are significant projects and need effort and enthusiasm from the members,” Mishra said. “We are working diligently to increase graduate student involvement and participation so that we can maximize our influence on campus.”

Caroline Stratton, information studies graduate student, agreed that the purpose of a student legislative body such as the Graduate Student Assembly should be to advocate for the general well-being of graduate students. Though, she disagreed that community-building events were the best way to preserve this well-being.

“It seems that by budgeting more money for appropriation to student groups, [The assembly’s] money would be spent more effectively than it would by putting on university-wide events,” Stratton said. “I haven’t attended any of [assembly] community-building events, nor do I know of other students from my organization or school attending these events.”

The Student Services Budget Committee approved new allocations of money from student fees to five University organizations who displayed particular needs, the committee’s former chairwoman said.

Former Student Government Vice President Muneezeh Kabir, who chaired the committee, said the nine-member group of students and faculty reviewed budget requests last year from 17 university centers, offices and programs vying for added funding, Kabir said. She said the committee decided to use money from the SSBC’s reserved funding to support programs that seemed most beneficial to the University and those in most need of financial assistance.

“People would come and give detailed presentations about how their programs contributed to the University and why they needed funding,” Kabir said. “I would say that recommendations were reflective of who we felt needed our funding most.”

The committee will distribute funding to the Gender and Sexuality Center, the Forensics Program, the Counseling and Mental Health Center, the shuttle bus system and the Office of Student Financial Services’ Bevonomics program, Kabir said. She said funding will be distributed Sept. 1 — the beginning of the fiscal year.

The SSBC distributes about $42 million in student fees each year. Funding to all other organizations SSBC allocates student fees to retained their previous funding levels. Groups include the Campus Environmental Center, Texas Student Media and Student Government.

Once the committee finalized its recommendations, it submitted them to Vice President of Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez for approval, which he gave in May. The recommendation became official last week.

Gender and Sexuality Center Director Ixchel Rosal said the funding from student fees have been the only source of income to run the center and expand it. She said she went before the committee last spring to ask for their continued support.

“I shared with them our current budget, talked about trends and things that we were noticing in the new space. They helped us get at the new Student Activities Center,” Rosal said.

Rosal said the center will receive $10,000 from the SSBC to be distributed in two increments at the beginning of each of the next two fiscal years. She said the center has seen an increase in student traffic, and the money will help hire student workers to help incoming students.

Jane Morgan Bost, associate director for the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said the center has received an increased number of visitors since an on-campus shooting Sept. 28. She said the center asked the council for funds to be able to handle more students.

“The funding will help us hire more workers to help students find the help they need through a system called triaging,” Bost said. “Through the system, we do a quick assessment of students who walk in here, find out what it is that they need and explain to them what we offer.”

Many students go to the center needing long-term counseling, while the center offers sessions that are meant to council students that need immediate assistance but do not require continuous sessions, Bost said.

She said the triage system cuts down on waiting time and prevents students from having to talk to multiple people before they find the assistance they need.

Gonzalez said some years the University does not have funds to add to the SSBC reserves. He said the recommendations from the SSBC were well thought out and did not require too much spending on their behalf.

Gonzalez said before approving the recommendations he consulted with his Associate Vice President Donna Bellinghausen and spoke with representatives of a number of organizations that will receive the money.

“I made no changes but had several considerations to address before I made the final approval,” Gonzalez said.
Kabir said Gonzalez was not able to approve the committee’s request for a 10th member.

As the March 2 and 3 student-wide general election approaches, candidates for Student Government and other student leadership organizations are hoping to capture student attention with Facebook groups and fliers. The Daily Texan met with the five SG executive alliances to get their thoughts on issues that impact students. The elected president and vice president will preside over the 2011-12 SG and hold positions in powerful groups like the Student Services Budget Committee and the President’s Student Advisory Council. They will also be able to fight for personal goals and initiatives and act as official voices for the student body.

Spencer Scorcelletti and Aaron West

Public relations senior Spencer Scorcelletti started the “Free Rides” service where he would ride around campus on his tandem bicycle giving people free rides to class to inspire people to do more random acts of kindness. Journalism senior Aaron West is interested in magazine writing and editing. He is a former Daily Texan writer, interns at The Onion and is also involved in the Rotary Club.

Why we are running

Scorcelletti said: We’re running because no one normal ever runs for president and vice president. The campaign process is so hectic and crazy that the only people who are up to the challenge are the career politician type. So we think it’s important that the student body is given the option to elect someone who’s not from the usual circle that gets elected every year. Our platform is based off this premise, and the way our campaign is run reflects this. Instead of flooding students and trash cans with fliers, we’re campaigning with creative and personal techniques. For example, our campaign “literature” comes from other candidate’s fliers that have been thrown into the trash. Also there’s “Have tea with your student body president” which is where in the mornings, students can get tea from me and sit down and talk to me about whatever they want.

Guns

Scorcelletti said: Personally I don’t own any guns and I don’t like them, and I think maybe it’s OK for there to be some places where guns aren’t carried. But I think that there should be more talk on the issue. It’s banned already, and I think there should be an open discussion on it. I’m not going to say that I’m going to fight one way or the other until there is more discussion. We want to make a decision based on what the campus wants and needs.

Budget Crisis

“Everything is secondary to the budget,” West said. “What’s the point in arguing about guns on campus if there isn’t a campus? The budget is what we need to take care of, and we need to let the legislature know that this is a real issue. We need to start by looking into unconventional options for saving money,” West said.

If Elected...

West says: We would focus on distributing the power among the student body and allowing them to realize what they have the power to do. We want to encourage crystal clear communication and to get more student involvement. Our decision making will be based on discussion, debate and representing the student body.”

Scorcelletti says: The biggest change that we can bring to the [executive] office is bringing common sense and down-to-earth policy to the table. The executive office only has so much authority, but one thing that can be done, that no one ever thinks to do, is simply involve the student body.

Andrew Nash and Melanie Schwartz

Government senior Andrew Nash is the chair of the University Unions Board of Directors and has previously chaired the Texas Revue committee and served as president of the Student Events Center. He is also involved with Freshman Leadership Organization and Leadership Education And Progress. History senior Melanie Schwartz is a former College Republicans at Texas president and was also involved in the bipartisan voter registration organization Hook the Vote in 2010.

Why we are running

Nash says: We want to leave the university a better place than we found it. Somebody really needs to step up to bat for students and make sure that tangible differences are being made. For a long time, SG was focused on these abstract ideas like accessibility, reform and transparency, but students didn’t have anything to show for that, so at the end of the day we want to make sure that students have something to remember SG by.

Guns

Nash says: We have different views on guns, but we agree that safety is an issue. If a student does feel that there is a legitimate need to carry a gun on campus then that’s a concern for us. We support the right for the university to decide their own gun policy. What we’re advocating for at the capitol is that if it comes down to being our decision we would put it up to a student referendum and let the students decide what happens at UT.

Budget Cuts

Schwartz says: We have to make sure the cuts that do happen don’t affect students disproportionately and so the things that we need to be cutting first are the things that we need least. We started with the SG stipends for us. We are the only candidates who pledged to not accept a stipend. We want to shift that money somewhere people need it because this is a job that we’ll do for free. There’s a lot of options like that to be explored.

Tuition

Nash says: What we’ve been telling people is that we cant always control how much money comes into the university, but this is actually one area where we can control that. We have to look at how much the university is spending so we want to look at both areas and make sure that there is a balance because although we are looking at cuts from the legislature, we can’t just raise tuition to make up for the difference. We are going to have to have targeted cuts.We are going to have to make sure we are spending students money effectively.

Captain Dave-id Tiberius McQuary 5000 & H.A.N.N.A.H. Oley (Humanoid Android Nebraskanoid kNifefight Android Humanoid)

Business honors senior David McQuary and biology senior Hannah Oley are both members of the Texas Travesty staff.

Why they are running

McQuary says: I come from the distant future!I must stop Natalie Butler from becoming elected Student Body President. We can prevent great tragedies from occurring by stopping her ascent to power now. My future, the one where Ms. Butler was elected, is a terrible, horrific place. Wild dogs run amok through the nuclear wastelands of campus, feasting on the rotting flesh of the thousands of dead students. Robotic soldiers patrol the streets, liquefying all humans who disagree with the President’s despotic policies. I am the leader of the resistance against ButlerNet, the evil corporation responsible for starting World War 3 and destroying Austin as you know it!

Guns

McQuary says: “We are pro-ray guns, [but] only if they are set to stun.”

Tuition

“Inflation is going got get real bad if she wins. I feel like when we are discussing issues like tuition we are kind of missing the forests for the trees because, yea tuition might go up or down if you vote for Natalie, but Nuclear war is certain. So its kind of a give and take. So pay a little less so you can get a cheap apartment in West Campus or survive. You pick.”

SG Accessibility

“Being a part of SG is not an option in my time. Natalie is very much a dictator in my time. I think that what you guys are seeing in Libya and Egypt right now with people fighting against tyrants just shows that without democracy justice cannot prevail and humanity cannot prevail so students need to get active in protecting themselves against possible demonic overlords and the best way to do that is to give their own voice.”

SG Experience

“I am currently the leader of the Resistance so it’s just me, a few wolves and my running mate, I don’t have any governmental experience persay, because there is no government — it’s just Natalie and her dictatorship.”

Natalie Butler and Ashley Baker

Presidential candidate Natalie Butler, a Plan II, government and political communications senior, was an SG Longhorn Legislative Aide her freshman year and has remained involved in the organization, currently serving as a University-wide representative. She is also a member of Orange Jackets and Friar Society. Junior Ashley Baker, her running mate, is also a University-wide representative and was previously involved with Senate of College Councils. She is also a member of Black Students Alliance and other organizations.

Why they are running.

Baker says: I would love to see more people involved in student government; getting people from all around campus involved and having a stake in the organization because it’s supposed to be the voice of the student body and being in SG, I’ve noticed there’s cliques and what not so we really want to change the culture of the organization.

Guns

Butler says: By no means am I anti-guns but I’m anti-guns in the classroom. I was one of the sponsors of the resolution that said that we don’t want guns on campus. We are realistic that it is likely to pass given the makeup of the legislature. What we are asking for now is to allow individual votes for each campus as to whether or not they want to allow guns on campus.

Textbooks

Butler says: SG supported a bill that would put the burden of textbook changes on the publishers. It makes publishing companies and book stores let professors know what’s different from edition to edition. There no need to assign a new edition of a textbook that would cost students more.

Baker says: Natalie and I both supported a resolution this semester for professors to get their book lists to the Co-op early, that way the Co-op could release their lists so that other book stores would be able to order their books early. We believe in allowing competition so that the publishing companies are held accountable and that they are open and transparent about the things that are changed in their books.

Tuition

Butler says: I’m really committed to making the TPAC process open from the beginning. What’s happened in the past is that TPAC meets and once they are done with their process they have a lot of forums to discuss the things they proposed and those are great but I think that we also need to have open conversations with the student body through out the entire process. I think then we will get better responses as to what students want and need in regards to tuition. We want to make sure that tuition doesn’t go up in a way that prevents students from coming.

Budget Cuts

Butler says: What we want to avoid happening is what happened in Liberal Arts. There was a board made up of faculty and there were no students involved, and I feel like if there had been multiple students involved in those conversation, then those proposals would have looked a lot differently because students would have been able to say, this is what these departments and centers mean to me. So we want to make sure that students are involved, and we don’t necessarily want it to be SG members — we want it to be all students from all walks of life and all kinds of involvement on campus because it effects all of us,” Butler said.

Abel Mulugheta and Sameer Desai

Government senior Abel Mulugheta is a leader in his fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and recently the Student Government Reform Task Force . Business honors junior Sameer Desai is active in the Indian Students Association, Texas Blazers and the Business Honors Program Steering Committee.

SG Accessibility

Desai says: We know that SG is only as powerful as the students it represents. Students deserve to have their voices heard by SG and by administrators. We will remove the unnecessary levels of bureaucracy in order to create a direct link between students and Student Government.

Budget

Mulugheta says: We know the state is going to cut the budget and that tuition is getting higher and financial aid is getting lower. We want students to rely less on the federal Pell Grant and TEXAS Grant and rely more on university-sponsored scholarships.

Safety

Mulugheta says: We will implement Safe-Ride for students who don’t live on or close to campus in conjunction with expanding SURE walk. In addition, students will enjoy a greater sense of security by having a lit up campus. We will push for more lights in West Campus, as well as all over the 40 Acres.