MSA, it’s been too long.
We’re glad we haven’t had to write to you until now, but as this whole budget process comes to a close, we’d like to review a few things that went awry.
First, not only did we have to Sunshine your budget, current MSA Vice President Kelsey Haberberger repeatedly denied MSA members access to the budget. Many people within your organization hadn’t even seen a copy of the budget until it reached Senate. The MSA Senate speaker had to ask us for a copy of the budget draft. This is the ultimate breakdown of communication. It comes down to transparency and communication, both of which are essential to keeping students aware of what’s happening in MSA.
Secondly, you tried to kick everyone out of a public meeting. MSA Budget Committee chairwoman Shelby Catalano requested everyone who was not a member of the committee leave the meeting to allow for uninterrupted discussion. Although this sounds nice, this breaks the MSA Constitution and Missouri law.
Due to the confusion and lack of transparency, Academic Affairs Committee chairman Ben Vega wrote two pieces of legislation: one forcing cooperation between the Budget Committee and the vice president when creating the budget (failure to do so would lead to the vice president’s removal from office) and another saying the committee chairs need to be involved in the budget practice. Both of these, especially the latter, are highly unenforceable.
If the budget process had been clear and transparent from the get-go, Senate would have been informed about its continually decreasing budget earlier. Senators could also have vocalized their discontent about the $2,000 budget decrease to the Senate budget and brainstormed ways to make all sides of the table happy. And even if there was no way that Senate could maintain their budget, Haberberger should have heeded the inputs, both good and bad, from other MSA members, rather than writing off their discontent.
That being said, Senate has not been diplomatic about the issues either. The money Senate wants is to cater food for its meetings and to plan advocacy events. Unless you forgot, Senate, you have the entire Department of Student Activities to plan events for you. Plan ahead and inform DSA about the events you want to have. It’s DSA’s job to put on events, and it’s your job to make legislation.
The two pieces of legislation are petty, but they have some merit. However, they are barely enforceable. More importantly, think through these pieces of legislation logically instead of impulsively. Senate has enough time to propose amendments after a draft of the budget has been made. The Budget Committee chair doesn’t need to be involved in every single meeting. Stop being petty, and do your jobs.
From a student perspective, the budget process has been unnecessarily messy. Since the process is almost over, let’s move forward from here and start fresh.
First off, transparency will be key for the remaining part of the 2014 administration. In the past, the budget writing process hasn’t been a closed event. Former MSA Vice President Zach Beattie took a lot of time to seek ample input from various organizations and committees. This year has been secretive and hasn’t created an open environment. Transparency is also important because the budget involves $1.6 million in student funds. It’s a lot of money, especially to be hiding, when you’re dividing it up.
To achieve transparency, accountability will be key. As a publicly elected student leader, Haberberger is accountable to all students. Past MSA experience might have helped Haberberger understand how the budget process has traditionally worked. But because she did not have that experience, other MSA executive members should have held Haberberger accountable for her actions and informed her that this isn’t how the budget process typically works.
Holding each other accountable should improve communication, and communication is key to running a student government. We ask that MSA members assume the roles they’ve been elected to and work together in a professional manner, not with the current pettiness. This isn’t a soap opera. This is student government. People that work together should work together.
Take this job seriously. You are in charge of a lot money, and much of it is student fees. Don’t forget where this money comes from. It’s being distributed by students for the good of students, so keep that in mind when you’re demanding more lunch money.