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UA Senate Discusses Student Group Funds Following Vetoed Bill

By Benjamin P. Gleitzman

Following the veto of a bill to improve the terms of use for the MIT Logarhythms’ a cappella studio last week, a special informal meeting of the Undergraduate Association Senate was held last night to discuss purchases made by Association of Student Activities-recognized student groups with UA Financial Board funds, reallocation of past student group purchases, and property rights for student groups. No decisions were made.

The bill, proposed to the UA by Next House Senator Hans E. Anderson ’08 and Finboard Senate Representative Benjamin Navot ’07 was vetoed by UA President Andrew T. Lukmann ’07 because “not enough of the background work went into research [for the bill]” and many of the a cappella groups involved were not informed, according to Lukmann at last night’s meeting. While no legislation was passed during the meeting, statements were made by members of the Logs, the ASA, and Finboard concerning a course of action for the UA.

Action would have to be taken by the ASA in the event of space reallocation.

The vetoed bill states that “a considerable portion of UA Finboard Allocation and Appeals money pays for recording and studio time for a cappella student groups” and calls into question “a recurring waste of undergraduate money and resources given there is already a studio on campus.” The bill would “call for a meeting between the Logs and all a cappella groups currently under contract regarding the use of the studio,” and would allow the UA Senate to “freeze the Finboard account and future Finboard funding of any group that fails to attend this meeting.”

Finboard “is wasting between $1,500 and $2,000 in recording fees per year,” Anderson said. “We don’t like to fund student groups to pay other student groups.”

Interestingly, it is Finboard representative Navot and UA Senator Anderson, and not any specific a cappella group, presenting this case to the UA. Other than the Logs, no members from other a cappella groups were present at the meeting.

“I personally contacted all the a cappella groups that I have friends in, and it is kind of sad that their input is being heard after the fact, and not before the legislation was discussed,” Interfraternity Council Senate Representative Dwight M. Chambers ’08 said.

The Logs came to the UA Senate in December 2002 to request a $10,000 loan to build a recording studio in the Walker Memorial Building, according to UA Senate Speaker Steven M. Kelch ’08. The loan has been repaid in full, and space in and around the recording studio was given up by other a cappella groups in exchange for studio time.

When the studio was first completed, an agreement approved by the ASA was signed by all but one of the a cappella groups, allowing 160 hours of studio use per group over a two-year period, Logs President Michael J. Fitzgerald ’07 said. Groups can receive more hours of studio time if they have not had any bad behavior over the past two years and are able to purchase additional recording hours for a “competitive fee,” Fitzgerald added.

“It didn’t seem like there was anything formally written to say the studio would in the future not belong solely to the Logs,” Lukmann said.

The agreement was “more of a social agreement,” Kelch added.

Some a cappella groups instead use an external party for studio recording, also using funds allocated by Finboard. It was unclear to those at the meeting how many groups use an external studio and also if allocated funds are used to pay the Logs for use of their studio.

“If this kind of issue occurs in the future, we need a fundamental way [the UA] can make the ASA do things without delay,” Anderson said. “The UA is going to force the ASA to arbitrate.”

“If the ASA cannot find a resolution, then Finboard and the UA should step in,” Lukmann added.

As of yet, no one has formally brought this case before the ASA.

Student Group Property

Property rights of ASA recognized student groups were also discussed, specifically, what to do when a student group either ceases to exist or is deemed to be using their property inefficiently.

“The are a lot of groups that don’t get any money and survive perfectly fine,” said ASA Treasurer James R. Peacock ‘08. “This only applies to a very small percentage of cases … so we can look at it on a case by case basis.”

Many senators discussed requiring a list of previous purchases made by student groups using both Finboard and student-raised money when applying for Finboard funding.

“Reallocating currently owned property is probably a bad thing, but denying funding due to previous purchases is a reasonable issue,” said Fitzgerald.

“[The ASA] would handle disagreement over space usage as we would handle any other disagreement, and it is not in our guidelines to reallocate space between cycles. The guidelines are easy to change, but I don’t think that happens much,” said ASA Graduate Member-at-Large Philip A. Rolfe G.

Both issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the UA Senate on Monday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. in W20-400.