After 23 years of controlling student activity fee funding for student groups, the Board of Student Organizations may be stripped of its financial responsibilities, putting that power back into the hands of the Student Senate exclusively.
According to Student Senate chair Joshua Dodge, the BSO was originally developed so that the senate wouldn’t be overwhelmed by financial proposals and funding requests from student groups, but that it no longer functions properly.
“I think we can all agree that the BSO is a broken system,” said Dodge during a BSO advisory group last Tuesday.
A senate resolution was brought before the BSO on Friday, April 11 titled “Dissolving the Board of Student Organizations” so that senators sponsoring the resolution could get feedback. After the Friday meeting, Dodge said that while he supported the resolution initially, there was an overwhelming opposition from BSO members when the resolution was announced, and he didn’t feel comfortable going forward with it as it stood on Friday.
“I’m student-elected, so I don’t feel comfortable supporting something that the students don’t,” said Dodge.
Student Body President Kyle Frazier openly disagreed with Dodge, saying that there were a few students who spoke out, but the majority of the BSO didn’t say anything at all.
“I don’t think we should let this go just because a few people don’t agree with it,” said Frazier.
The resolution, drafted by the senate’s constitutional review committee, called on other senators to recognize the “ineffective and inefficient nature” of the BSO, citing low attendance, meetings that were not “a pleasure” to attend and a lack of fiscal scrutiny as reasons why the BSO should be dissolved.
“[The BSO] hardly looks at proposals,” said Frazier. “BSO spends and spends and spends and then they come back to the senate for more money at the end of the year. It’s irresponsible. When I spend my money, I run out of money and that’s that.”
The recommendation to dissolve the BSO and the four stipended executive board positions are introduced in the resolution as “the groundbreaking ideas of Kyle Frazier.”
According to Director of Student Life Christopher O’Connor, the Student Government Association has had a healthy unallocated fund at the end of the semester in the past four years or so, so the BSO running out of funds and returning to the senate has never been a problem. But this year the SGA was forced to cut its budget due to low enrollment at the university, and they’re planning on being more conservative with funding.”
“I purposefully didn’t go to the emergency meeting because I wanted to make sure it was student-driven,” said O’Connor. “There’s a lot to think about with this move –– the big thing being fiscal responsibility, obviously. That’s something I know everyone wants to help out with.”
Finances aside, the BSO has had trouble filling seats at meetings this past year. BSO Chair Katie Belgard cited lack of attendance as the primary reason for BSO inefficiency. The BSO needs a minimum of 28 of its 56 recognized student groups to be in attendance for the board to make quorum and be able to vote on executive issues, and it’s been difficult to get students to attend the monthly meetings.
“If we don’t have the voices of the student body, we can’t vote, and we can’t do business,” said Belgard.
When Belgard emailed a poll to all recognized student groups to see when they could meet to discuss changes, she received fewer than 28 responses.
According to Belgard, no student has come forward yet to fill the chair position for the BSO after she graduates this spring. If no one steps up to the plate, student senate has to appoint leaders in the BSO.
“It’s not working, and it’s our [the senate’s] responsibility to fix it. No one wants to run it, so why should we have it?” said Frazier.
Right now members of the senate and the BSO executive board are thinking of ways to keep the BSO, but also redeveloping the group’s purpose. One possibility discussed on Tuesday was to fold all financial responsibilities back into the senate’s purview so the BSO can focus more on group organization, working with the Leadership Development Board to teach student groups about fundraising, public relations and gaining new members. The BSO would still exists, but have different responsibilities. With the recent turnover of student senators, no action was taken on this issue at last week’s student senate meeting.
“We want this to be a collaborative process,” said Dodge.
Dodge announced at last Friday’s student senate meeting that the BSO will be in a transition period and that deciding the next steps will be one of the first duties of the newly elected 43rd student senate.