Hours of debate in Thursday’s Associated Students of Madison council meeting failed to yield compromises on student-group budget requests; now a conference committee will undertake the task of reaching funding agreements.
The conference committee will consist of ASM chair Bryan Gadow and his choice of three other council members, as well as Student Services Finance Committee chair Roman Patzner and his three chosen SSFC representatives. The goal of the committee, according to Gadow, is “figuring out how to make the necessary compromises in the budgets.” The committee is set to convene early in the spring semester.
Although the council meeting passed many of the proposed budgets, those of Wunk Sheek, the Asian Pacific American Council, the Multicultural Student Center, Diversity Education Specialists and SAFE nighttime services remain in question for the committee to discuss.
Patzner said the council meeting seemed divided into two main factions, those who wanted to accept the budgets as proposed and those who wished to cut some funding.
“The overall budget for some of the groups were seen as excessive, but some members felt we should leave the decisions of SSFC alone,” Patzner explained.
ASM member Jacqueline Helmrick said she felt the budgets were “over-inflated” and needed trimming. As an example, she pointed to $29,300 proposed in MCSC’s budget for computers when the group was awarded $28,490 for the same purpose last year.
“I don’t understand why a staff equal in size to ASM would need new computers twice in two years,” Helmrick said.
She also said she disapproved of the attitude that Student Council should merely accept the proposed budgets without discussion or criticism.
“SSFC and the council are supposed to act as a check on each other, and that would never happen if council rubber-stamped all of SSFC’s decisions,” Helmrick said.
On the other side, council member and SSFC representative Monica Sanmiguel said the council should hold SSFC’s decisions in higher esteem.
“I really value the work we did,” Sanmiguel said. “I think something that frustrated SSFC members is that we were so careful about our decisions and about viewpoint-neutrality — it seemed like council didn’t understand our work.”
According to Sanmiguel, student-of-color groups faced greater scrutiny in the budget process than other groups.
“It seems like the council specifically targeted student-of-color organizations, which only perpetuates the idea that ASM doesn’t represent student needs,” she said.
Council member David Presberry said the council reached a stalemate in many cases because of the two factions’ inability to reach a middle ground.
“The liberals want to pass them the way they are, and the conservatives want to cut them; since neither group has enough votes to have it their way, they needed to compromise more,” Presberry explained.
Despite the disputes, Helmrick noted the atmosphere of the meeting remained civil.
“There was a common conception in the meeting that both sides needed to compromise,” Helmrick said. “There was an open dialogue beginning.”
Members across the board expressed hope that the conference committee will achieve what the council meeting failed to find: a compromise between the two sides.
“I hope the committee will make decisions that satisfy both the student organizations and Student Council,” Sanmiguel said. “I hope it won’t have to go to the chancellor; that would make our work seem a lot less valid.”