The Board of Student Organizations approved funding requests for 15 proposals on Friday, including one from the Veteran’s Activity Group for $1,200 to fund a six-student coyote hunt in northern Maine.
There was limited discussion before the proposal passed on Friday at the BSO’s weekly meeting, although several board members questioned the constitutionality of the use of student activity fee money to fund an event involving firearms.
“The problem is that the University of Maine System has a policy that any university sponsored event involving firearms is a ‘no-no’ without approval from the [USM] Chief of Police,” said Ray Dumont, coordinator for the Student Government Business Office. USM’s student organization handbook states that student groups cannot spend student activity fees on “alcohol, firearms or anything illegal.” However, it does not state explicitly that fees are prohibited to be used to sponsor events that involve firearms.
Chris Wagner from the Veteran’s Activity Group who spoke on Friday, explained that no money will be directly spent on firearms, but that the student activity fee money would be used to pay for the outfitter and guide services. He also stated that the group intends to seek written approval from USM’s Chief of Police Kevin Conger once their funding was approved.
Senior accounting and finance major and representative from the Accounting Society Andrew Kalloch was the only BSO member to reject the proposal.
“I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of university [and student] money, gun usage aside,” he said. He also said that he hopes that the university “does the right thing” and draws the line on the trip, which he said is a questionable use of student money. BSO President Katie Belgard would not comment when asked whether or not she agreed with Kalloch in order to remain “unbiased.”
“You would be amazed where students get to go through this process and what valuable learning experiences they gain and bring back to the university,” she said.
The proposal states that the event will be beneficial for the participating students in that it “will enrich members of the student body with regard to their appreciation for coyote’s [sic] and their environmental impact on Maine’s deer herd.”
Without approval from Conger, Wagner said, the expedition will be an event for “photographically capturing” the coyote population in their destination – Masardis, Maine.
The BSO approved just over $16,000 in spending on Friday out of its $35,500 semester budget, leaving $8,941.97 for the semester to be allocated.
Kalloch was critical of the some of the body’s spending practices. “Year in and year out, they run out of money before the end of the semester,” he said.
Belgard said that there has been a notable rise in the number of active student groups this year – exceeding 50 groups. “Our budget has not increased in a way that is proportionate to the number of student groups that are interested in receiving funding through the BSO,” she said. “With the Student Activity Fee not changing in terms of amount, the BSO is bound to run out of their funds much earlier than planned for.”