By Syeda Sameeha, News Reporter
Concerns have been raised regarding possible conflicts of interest involving SGA executive board members following a recent attempt to fund an Hablamos event violating SGA’s procedures.
SGA Vice President and President of Hablamos, Maria Anguiano, intended to ask SGA for $150 at the SGA meeting on Thursday Oct. 26 for Hablamos’ Dia de Los Muertos event which took place on Wednesday, Nov. 1. However, the proposal was postponed due to a lack of time.
Instead on Friday, Oct. 27, SGA Vice President of Finance Emma Kaminski reached out to SGA board members via email asking the board to send in their vote, “since the event will be happening before our next meeting.”
SGA representative Joshua Bucens raised concerns.
“First of all, we had not had time to discuss as a board. Secondly, I did not see how the event benefitted a large enough portion of our campus that warranted committing funds,” explained Bucens in an email interview. “And thirdly, Maria Anguiano who is the President of Hablamos, also sits on our executive board of SGA and was the one giving the presentation; to me this is a blatant conflict of interest!”
Anguiano responded to Bucens saying that he “believed I was using that money for something else and that it wasn’t going to benefit the whole student body,” said Anguiano.
In emails provided to the Leader, Bucens cited a part of the SGA bylaws as support for his claims of improper practices.
“I would also say that according to the funding bylaws, the board has not had time for discussion. See article IX section 4 of our funding bylaws,” said Bucens in the email.
Section 4 of Article IX of the SGA Funding Bylaws states, “Student Organizations that are requesting funding from Rollover accounts must complete a Student Government Association Rollover Funding Proposal form, which is distributed by Student Government Association.”
According the funding bylaws document, this form must ask of information that documents the request for funding from a student organization such as “a cost breakdown of the project” and a “timeline of the project.”
While the funding bylaws of SGA lists that all student organizations requesting funding must complete this Rollover Funding Proposal form, Anguiano claims there is no such form.
“There’s not a form or if there is a form, we don’t know what form. The bylaws says follow the guidelines proposal form, but we don’t have one,” admits Anguiano.
Anguiano also continued with discussing that her presentation went over everything Bucens had an issue with as far as the breakdown went.
“My presentation even had why I chose SGA, not Cooperative Funding (Co-Op) because I wanted this event to bring more inclusivity between students and felt SGA had similar values because of its diversity and inclusion position,” she said.
As for Bucens’ claims of a conflict of interest, Anguiano agreed how this could be seen as a conflict of interest for Bucens being a new member of SGA, but admits this was the first time an issue like this was brought up.
“I know in the past other executive members and board members of SGA held other executive roles outside of SGA and they made proposals here,” said Anguiano.
As of now, the SGA Constitution and bylaws have no direct stated rules against a SGA board member bringing up a proposal on behalf of another student activity that they have an executive position on.
While the Hablamos proposal was approved, in the end, Anguiano decided to redact the proposal.
“We had majority vote, one no and two abstains. So it was something SGA wanted to do, but with all the conflict going on, I did not want Hablamos to have a bad name and decided not have the event sponsored by SGA,” said Anguiano. “I was willing to pay for it myself because this is an event I wanted for EC students, but thankfully Black Student Union sponsored us and we had a great time at the event.”
Bucens claimed his reasoning behind the whole event was to prevent SGA looking like a corrupt organization.
“The problem I had was that this procedure violated our bylaws and to an outsider would appear corrupt. Even though there was no nefarious intent,” explained Bucens. “As I said in another email ‘The amount to be allocated is not what’s important - neither is the size of our fund, the way it is being spent and the lack of adherence to procedure and structure is what is important. It is our job to question everything and to evaluate the validity of proposals that come through our organization.’”
“I was most worried about the lack of care that seemed to be present regarding the rules that govern our own organization,” said Bucens.
Anguiano also agreed SGA needs to do a better job of following guidelines.
“This Hablamos proposal was something we had talked about before. I thought people would be okay with it and I didn’t think anything wrong of it. I was asking for $150 out of an account that has more than enough, but it is not about the money, it’s about following the guidelines, something SGA has to work on, because it has not been in doing that in the past SGA,” said Anguiano.
“I think this was a learning experience for us. After this incident, I just decided that if I’m going to make proposal for Hablamos or any other organization I am part of, I’m just going to bring another student to present it, not myself,” said Anguiano.
For many on the SGA board, this incident is an example of the growing tension between members.
“It is clear to see that tension has been building in the group over the semester,” wrote Kaminski in the email to SGA board members after the Hablamos proposal was redacted.
One example of tension may be because a talk of impeachment going around between SGA members.
SGA Representative Laura Rusk said, “A few weeks ago, Bucens had contacted all SGA representatives about impeachment regarding executive board members.” According to Rusk, this contact was made prior to the Hablamos proposal controversy.
Anguiano also confirmed that a student had contacted board members about impeachment.
“I am aware of this. There’s a representative who is not happy with what SGA is doing, but I don’t know necessarily why. We are a little confused as to why, but if there are reasons we will go through the whole impeachment process,” said Anguiano.
When the Leader asked for confirmation regarding an impeachment process, the reasons for it, and whether this was an active effort, Bucens declined to comment on the matter.
Both Anguiano and Kaminski stressed better communication and involvement in the board to move them forward.
“We are doing feedback forms, so we want to the SGA reps to tell us what we are doing wrong and what they would like for us to do. I think as executive board members we are trying our best to get everyone involved. A lot of representatives feel like they are not doing something and they are not representing. If they want to do something, they should do it,” said Anguiano.
In the email to the SGA board, Kaminski said, “In order to try and resolve anything, a conversation needs to happen. We are all here for one reason, to help be the voice of the students.”