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Films Causes Budget Blow up at Joint Board

By Joe Wlos

On Wednesday, Joint Board battled over the SGA Spring Semester Budget, with senators and cabinet members trading fire over the $25,000 allocated to Films. Although more similar to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington than Saving Private Ryan, tensions in JRC 209 were definitely high, leading to complaints about the disappointing discourse at Joint Board after a marathon, three-hour session.

“It appears as though some senators did not consider the value of the other senators’ time, making motions that were ill-conceived and … just for … annoyance,” said SGA President Gabe Schechter ’12.

Senator Max Farrell ’12 (CaNaDa) was the primary provocateur. After his first amendment to strip $5,000 from Films failed in a tie vote, he continued to offer similar amendments, suggesting only minor monetary changes. At one point, Farrell altered his amendment by just one dollar while trying to win more support. All of his amendments met the same fate as the first, failing passage in tie votes.

The Budget was ultimately approved in a vote of 10-4-2.

“As senators, it is our job to look over the budget, and there were some problems I wanted to address about Films,” Farrell said, “but there were definitely some glares in there.”

For Treasurer Kathy Anderson ’13, the timing of Farrell’s amendments were far too late.

“It was week five of the semester. Week five is too late to bring this issue up in a way that will positively create change,” Anderson said. “If you want to change how money is allocated in the SGA Budget, you can talk to the treasurers . . . and discuss with the chairs of the committees their plans for the semester, so you know what’s going on and where the rationale lies.”

But Farrell feels that these are exactly the types of concerns that Joint Board should address.

“Cabinet wants to table [my amendment] for next semester and let it die,” Farrell said, who pointed out that he had talked to Films Chair Phillip Brogdon ’12 several times. “Some radical proposals never go over too well. [Cabinet] does not like that I used the system the way that I did, but I was completely in the right to do so. It was pushing the limits, but sometimes that’s how you’ve got to play the game.”

Last week Farrell, joined by Senator Tom Van Heeke ’12 and others, questioned the size of the budget for Films, citing low attendance at events and the high cost of screening rights. The senators also said that students now have other options for movies, with new technologies, such as Netflix, along with Burling’s media offerings. They proposed appropriating a portion of the Films budget to either ACE or the Student Programming Committee, which each ran deficits last semester. However, some senators and cabinet members disputed the validity of these propositions.

“We don’t need more funds,” said Assistant Treasurer Raghav Malik ’13, who is the co-chair of the Student Programming Committee.

Tempers were especially high during the debate. Presiding Officer Peter Aldrich ’15 was forced to reprimand some senators—specifically Farrell—for disorderly conduct. For example, when Senator Sam Mulopulos ’14 expressed support for the budget, Farrell raised his hoodie over his head and loudly exclaimed, “Oh, Jesus,” breaking Robert’s Rules of Order.

“There were times when I did demonstrate some intensity, but it was necessary to do so,” Farrell said. “The trend of the budget being decided when it’s too late to change it shouldn’t continue anymore. If that’s the case, why the hell are we voting on it in the first place, then?”

However, during a critical moment in the proceedings, VPAA Wadzi Motsi ’12 was recognized to speak before Farrell, even though people in the back could clearly see that Farrell had asked for the floor first. This effectively ended Farrell’s chance to continue his motioning for amendments.

Some senators suggested that budgets should be approved the semester before implementation, so that there are less arguments and more discussions. But that plan may be infeasible.

“It is really difficult to approve a budget the semester before it goes into effect,” Anderson said. “Approximately a few weeks before the end of the semester, [cabinet members] don’t have time to get up a whole semester’s activities. You’ll be in the middle of finals week.”

Despite the tension, these discussions caused some senators to further the discussion with their constituents. Others hope that the three-hour session convinces senators to be more serious and succinct during Joint Board.

“I think some good will come out of this,” Farrell commented the day after Joint Board. “If anything, it raised a good discussion, and it’s in people’s heads. People have an opinion now. There are people who are pissed off at me, and there are people who are pissed off at cabinet. That’s good—people need to feel emotion about this kind of thing, because there are at least $190,000 in the hands of a few people, and that’s not a good thing, when you really think about it.”

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