Student Government Spent Over 10 Hours Discussing Student Activity Fee Budget

A $2.77 million allocation was recommended last night by Minnesota State University, Mankato’s student government, after more than 10 hours of chaos and deliberation.

The main points that were discussed at the meeting included the salary increase for student leaders, the referendum and the tough cuts inflicted on different organizations. During the meeting, a level of control was imposed by the executive team on the senators in an effort to maintain order among the senators.

The meeting began with the senate questioning several guest speakers, including Music Ensembles, Theater and The Reporter.

After the stipend recommended by the student stipend committee, the student events team and student government chose to appeal and demand more money, citing the insufficient pay of their student leaders.

One of the major directives of the current student government leadership team concerns the compensation of student leaders, stating that the stipends many of them receive are not adequate for the time spent in these positions.

Tyler Pickel, president of the student events team, spoke about compensation for student leaders in his organization.

“The ability to make an impact while still being a student becomes increasingly difficult without adequate support,” Pickel said.

Student government president Reauna Stiff and vice president Kara Svercl appealed to the senate, asking for money to better compensate the student government executive team in the future.

During their call, the senate expressed concern about the raise, noting that there was no pay for senators.

In addition to these, other organizations that appealed included Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Activities Administration, and Campus Recreation.

Fraternity and Sorority Life saw a third of their demand reduced in the SAC recommendation, referencing a decrease in recruitment and a national trend in Greek Life being funded by the university level.

At the start of the meeting, Speaker Minahil Khan outlined the Senate’s ability to form a caucus, a process that involved cleaning up the observation gallery and making Senate discussion private.

The caucus was instituted twice during the meeting, the second time lasting nearly 40 minutes.

“Caucuses are executive sessions that remain a power that many legislative bodies use to ensure their decisions are the most effective,” Svercl said, referring to the decision to use the caucus at the meeting.

While the caucus is not often used in meetings, Svercl defended its use, saying the senate could debate more effectively.

“We may not have used huddles, but we’ve always used recess so we can talk effectively in a less formal way so we can clear things up faster,” Svercl said. “This year, we just went for the caucus method of use.”

Trenton Sax, a former member of the Student Allocations Committee, followed the meeting via livestream due to his attendance at MSU completely remotely. Sax was skeptical of the Senate’s use of caucus, citing lack of transparency.

“I am extremely upset and disturbed by this year’s student government budget meeting as a current student,” Sax said.

Sax mentioned that this year is an important year, as their SAC recommendation would require a student referendum, due to an increase of more than 2%.

“I believe over my full 4 years in college, at least the last 3 SACs have recommended an increase of less than 2%, with the exception of last year where they recommended a decrease,” Sax said. . “So that’s a big deal.”

After the second caucus, the senate began deliberations and voting on its recommendation for funding each organization.

In keeping with the leadership team’s priority of student compensation, student government voted to increase funding to each organization by requesting more funding for student compensation.
Student government, one of the aforementioned groups, voted to give themselves an increase in the appeal amount from $117,243 to the requested $124,481, with an addition of $6,000 in an effort to create salaries for senators, as well as increasing the salary of the management team. The final amount allocated to student government was $130,481.

The Maverick Participation Team, as well as the Student Events Team have also seen their funding increased in order to better pay students.

A burning issue in last night’s budget deliberations was that of policing senators.

At the start of the meeting, President Khan instituted a rule that if any given senator was ruled out of order by the president more than three times, he would be asked to leave the meeting.

Senator Abi Saha has received more than three Notices of Non-Compliance from the President. However, after a discussion of about 30 minutes, it was decided that he would not be asked to leave, as many other senators were also out of order.

Ultimately, the Senate’s budget recommendation results in a 4.6% increase, necessitating that the fee be passed to a referendum of the entire student body.

In the event that this referendum does not pass by the vote of the students, the senate voted a safeguard which would consist in drawing on the reserves of the contribution in order to bring the increase in the contribution below 2%. This reserve budget would result in a 1.9% increase in the fee.

Header photo: Kara Svercl, Vice President of Student Government, holding a sign advocating student salaries. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

Write to Maxwell Mayleben at [email protected]

Sara H. Byrd