Associated Students of Whittier College (ASWC) Senate Executive Board (E-Board) announced their decision to retract the Budget Distribution Bill at the Senate meeting on Feb. 11. When the bill was proposed at last week’s Senate meeting on Feb. 4, Media Council Representative fourth-year Astra Yatroussis made some objections to the bill’s wording. The proposed bill would pour all of the funds currently stored in all reserve accounts across campus into the ASWC Senate reserve account. The organizations most substantially affected by this are Program Board and Media Council.
ASWC Vice President Yvan Monreal feels that the disagreement voiced at the Feb. 2 meeting stems from miscommunication between Senate and Media Council. “I think definitely [Senate and Media Council] are communicating much better now, and Senator Yatroussis being on the Senate table has also added to that,” said Monreal. Media Council was under the impression that they would be allowed to keep a small pool of reserve funding, something that the bill, as proposed at the Feb. 2 meeting, made no reference to. Senate is currently in discussions with Media Council to rewrite the language of the bill into something that both parties can agree to. “We are drafting new language, so to speak,” said ASWC Vice President fourth-year Yvan Monreal. “Or literally drafting new language.” ASWC Treasurer third-year Jesus Delgado clarified, “We felt like there could have been better language in certain sections of that bill,” he said. “So rather than continue discussion, just going in circles, we feel like retracting it would have allowed for that language to be clarified.”
In a statement sent to the Quaker Campus, Media Council Representative Astra Yatroussis outlined what Media Council hopes to see from these discussions with Senate. “At the moment, our priority is the creation of language for the new bill,” wrote Yatroussis, “and affected governing body to ensure A) the creation of a reserve account for Media Council, B) the establishment of a cap for that account as previously discussed, and C) the preservation of Media Council’s autonomy.”
The bill has two core goals: first, to direct all funds collected every semester through the student body fee to Senate, then into constituent bodies; currently, a portion of the student body fee funds goes directly to Media Council, rather than through Senate and then into Media Council’s account. “The reasoning behind changing it so that [Media Council’s funding] goes through ASWC Senate is to ensure that we have a sort of . . . accountability,” said Monreal. “Because as of right now, that doesn’t necessarily exist.” Current funding mechanisms give governing bodies complete autonomy over their own semesterly budget, as well as reserve accounts. Under the bill, any organization that needs additional funding beyond their allocated semesterly budget would have to formally request it before ASWC Senate.
E-Board also intends for the Budget Distribution Bill to move a large portion of the funds currently held in Media Council’s reserve account into an ASWC reserve account, which will be spent before the end of each academic year. Media Council and Senate are currently in discussion about adding a cap to the amount Senate can draw from the reserve account. “Initially the plan was to not allow either of them to have a reserve because the thought behind that was it’s student funds, that should be going back to students at the beginning of every year, and then reallocated,” said Monreal. “But Media Council expressed concerns given that they have expensive equipment and that they have interest in operating over the summer.”
Senate E-Board has met with Yatroussis and Media Council President, fourth-year Lyla Matar, to discuss the intricacies of the bill, and intends to continue the discussion for as long as necessary. “Initially, this was something that we were going to try and put into effect this semester,” said Monreal. “But given that it’s just a big change, obviously it’s a lot of money we’re working with; the decision was made that we would slow down.”
Monreal hopes to be able to discuss the bill at next Monday’s meeting on Feb. 18, but he understands it may take some time to find a compromise. “[The goal is to] get this done essentially by the end of the year so as to allow the following year’s students to have a set plan and guidelines,” said Monreal.
Delgado argues that the Distribution Bill will help encourage ASWC Senate to spend the entirety of the funds collected in student body fees. Delgado feels that Senate has not always spent all of the funding allocated to them by collection of the $120 student body fee paid semesterly by Whittier’s student population. On average, Delgado said that Senate only spends half of the funds collected in the student body fund, and in past years, the largest expenditures have gone to large-scale events like Whittfest, a practice that Delgado disagrees with. “I think, honestly, in my opinion,” said Delgado, “an event, [like Whittfest] that large of scale, exhausting three quarters of our budget when we’re only getting on average about $200,000 — I don’t think an event that big is necessarily a sustainable event.”
When asked if he felt Senate communicated its intentions about the Distribution Bill well enough with the student bodies involved, Delgado claimed that the timeline Senate was working with made communication a bit difficult. “During JanTerm, it would have been very difficult to track down these bodies and organize meetings with [them]. So we figured, let’s just pump the bill out, write it, propose the bill; at that point, if they like it, they like it; if they don’t, let’s engage in conversation about it. That’s the way we saw it.” However, E-Board also voted to fast-track the bill; and, if the fast track had been successful, there would have been no opportunity to revise the wording.
Monreal feels that he cannot speak for E-Board as a whole, but speaking for himself, he said, “Personally, I would love to have had a better sense of communication with Media Council. That being said, I can’t speak for five other people, and I’m not the leader of this organization, technically speaking.”
When asked if Senate could have made more of an effort to reach out to Media Council, Monreal responded by saying, “I don’t think it’s Media Council’s place to come to Senate on a bill that they have no idea is even being created. So if one person were to foster that communication, it would have been Senate, if that makes sense, because we were the ones creating the bill.”
According to Monreal, E-Board will try to meet with Media Council before next week’s Senate meeting on Feb. 18. “ I’m very happy with the way in which we are working with Media Council right now,” said Monreal. “Communication certainly is improved, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Yatroussis expressed a similar sentiment in her statement. “Representatives from both bodies have worked thoroughly and diligently to ensure that the new bill will serve well all parties involved,” wrote Yatroussis. “I am hopeful that the good faith and professionalism shown herein will set a precedent for future interactions between Media Council and Senate.”