A committee of University of Wisconsin’s student government convened Thursday night in a meeting where representatives expressed confusion over an organization’s contract status before ultimately postponing a budget decision.
The Student Services Finance Committee met to take on the budget decision for Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, a decision which was ultimately tabled because of contention and uncertainty expressed by committee members.
According to SSFC Chair Ellie Bruecker, WISPIRG, an organization which hires outside professionals to augment student selected campaigns, has found difficulty with the administration in the past years in finding a contract process for these outside employees.
Bruecker said since the professionals are not university employees, the problem lies with using “state money for non-state employees.” She added although ASM has a contract process for outside hires, UW Legal has yet to approve the process as legal.
According to former ASM Chair Allie Gardner, who expressed frustration about the university’s incapability to accept the organization’s contract, UW Interim Chancellor David Ward will not sign the contract and accept the budget because of this legality issue with the process.
SSFC Rep. David Vines disagreed with the contention over the process’ legality altogether and said the entire debate implies a larger issue.
“Nobody has ever proved this process that we are going through right now as illegal,” Vines said. “[The administration has] already taken away our power for non-allocables, and now they are trying to take away our power of the allocable budget. This is more than a WISPIRG issue and more than a SSFC issue. It’s a shared governance issue.”
Vines added the organization “unequivocally” provides a direct service which could not have been done without the work of outside professionals.
SSFC Secratary Jonathan Harris agreed with Vines and supported the funding of the salaries of the professionals, as well as the message it would send to Ward.
“I will be supporting the salaries,” Harris said. “Students can do it, but they cannot do it as effectively as the paid professional staff. We cannot be in class and at the Capitol at the same time. I think it is essential for them providing the direct service.”
SSFC Rep. Devon Maier proposed a motion to strike all but two of the outside salaried positions from the budget, and he said the cut would still give a message to Ward about SSFC’s decision. However, after debate, the motion failed and all of positions’ salaries remained in the budget.
The committee chose to ultimately table the WISPIRG budget decision due to a general feeling of confusion and need for further time in order to clarify aspects of the decision, Harris said.
The committee, however, did pass a motion to tag the salaries as proposed and recommended the organization acquire a contract to pay for the salaries.
Atheists, Humans and Agnostics, an organization asking for funding for the first time this year, was granted a $67,440.10 budget with multiple strikes to salaried positions, which SSFC Rep. David Vines said were excessive.
However, SSFC Rep. Sarah Neibart did propose the idea of minimally funding AHA after finding a disconnect between the organization’s eligibility proposal and budget proposal, and the committee agreed minimally funding would not be appropriate.
The committee also heard from the Working Class Student Union, who had their budget hearing. With few clarifications about the organizations events, SSFC Rep. Jeremy Levinger said he was surprised by how few qualms he had with the proposed budget.
SSFC will reconvene Monday to readdress the WISPIRG budget as well as make WCSU budget decision. Bruecker said she will do some further preparation before the meeting and attempt to contact Ward and the university for further clarification.