Black Student Alliance Budget Passed after Debate Over Allocation

After a lengthy debate over the allocation of Black Student Alliance’s budget for fiscal year 2016-2017, the Student Government Association passed a $28,790 budget for BSA on April 21.

BSA criticized SGA for potentially cutting BSA’s budget, particularly their social activity budget. BSA organized a “blackout” at the Lane University Center in protest, and attended the April 7 SGA meeting in order to create awareness of BSA’s concerns.

At the April 7 SGA meeting, BSA President Shaniya Johnson said that she was expecting significant cuts to their budget. She was not present at the April 21 meeting.

Rather than significant cuts, funds were simply reallocated. BSA’s $5,300 social activities fund was redistributed to their cultural activities and education events funds, specifically the ‘Honoring Our Legacy’ and ‘lecture’ line items. SGA voted unanimously to reallocate this fund.

SGA involved BSA in the process before setting the budget and took recommendations into serious consideration.

SGA Treasurer Nick DeMichele pointed out that while SGA is able to fund some events with a social aspect, the organization is restricted as to what events are permissible. Specifically, events whose sole purpose is “personal amusement,” group dinners, private parties, etc, are deemed deniable by the SGA constitution

Similar budget line items from other organizations, including SGA and SafeRide, have been stricken because they were declared ‘deniable” due to being deemed “personal amusement.” Safe Ride’s end of the year retreat and SGA mixers were stricken from the budget.

SGA President James Kirk explained that a line item does not come to a vote if it is deemed ‘deniable’ by the constitution’s standards for event funding.

Although BSA’s communication and publicity funds remained the same, all other budget areas excepting the social activities fund increased.

“As an Operationally Funded Organization (OFO), BSA is funded by SGA at “one point in a line item budget for the entire following fiscal year,” as Kirk explained. “They are not eligible to come [to SGA] for event funding.”

Senator April Kinuya, SGA’s public relations chair, explained that SGA offered to assist in helping BSA supplement their budget, such as fundraisers.

BSA is the only OFO. SafeRide is not considered an OFO because it is an SGA initiative. Initiatives are not considered student organizations, but they receive funding in the same manner as OFOs.

OFO budgets are reviewed by line item, per the SGA constitution. An item may be stricken for a variety of reasons. According to the SGA constitution, funding requests for events of “personal amusement, group dinners, private parties, personal gifts, party favors, or similar expenditures,” will be denied.

At the April 7 meeting, Johnson emphasized the importance of BSA’s social activities, explaining that there is a lack of entertainment and social events for black students at Frostburg State University.

BSA’s mission statement is four part, but includes retaining “students of Black African heritage by instituting programs that transmit greater awareness and understanding of our culture and heritage to the Frostburg State University campus and the surrounding community” and being “a focal point whereby students may create a collective spiritual entity in order to maintain the political, educational, religious, social, and economic institutions that are unique to our heritage and culture.”

Johnson said that the loss of the social activities will hurt BSA’s ability to program diverse events that appeal to a wide range of students. She emphasized that BSA is “not just for black people.”

Diverse programming is “also important for our Caucasian students,” says Johnson. “They start really understanding what we do and how we’re not all just stereotypes, and we’re not all just thugs and gangsters running around just trying to fight.”

“Still we’re learning things,” she said. “Still we’re teaching things. Still we’re becoming friends with each other. So I truly feel as though diverse programming is a need.”

In 2015, BSA was given sole responsibility for organizing Homecoming. Now, a committee of multiple organizations as well as university staff departments will organize the event. SGA, BSA, the University Programming Council, Centralized Technical Services, and Student Athletes Advisory Committee are projected to be the principal committee members.

DeMichele emphasized in the April 21 meeting that BSA is expected to have a great amount of input, particularly about the Homecoming Dance.

Initially, $14,000 was reallocated to the Homecoming committee. An amendment proposing $10,000 of that be allocated back to the BSA budget for the Homecoming Dance failed. Only one senator voted in favor of the amendment.

Johnson said that the lost revenue from Homecoming could hurt BSA’s programming.

Although BSA can continue to hold events without revenue from Homecoming, many will no longer be free. BSA used Homecoming revenue to subsidize the cost of social and cultural events, such as the Etiquette Dinner and a play in Baltimore. Some events, like these two, were made free.

Johnson agreed that cultural events can also  have social elements. However, she said this leads to potential gray area, where it’s unclear whether an event is “social” or not, which could result in a misuse of SGA funds.

Culture-based organizations like BSA and the Latin American Students Association, Johnson argued, are important for retaining a diverse student population. Social activities and events help create a welcoming environment and raise awareness of the organization so that cultural and educational events will have a greater student turnout.

“We feel as though you can have a lot of cultural events, you can have a lot of political events, a lot of educational events, but if people don’t know who you are, then they won’t come,” Johnson stated.

Johnson said Lil Uzi Vert’s performance at FSU is one example of a BSA social event that brought a diverse crowd. Although the audience was primarily black, Johnson said that Caucasian students were prominent in the crowd.

“We really try for that.” Johnson explained. “And I was really happy to see all of them out there because they were in those crowds, even though it’s a black artist and the BSA did it, they were in the crowd and that was really our goal as BSA because the campus has a lot of diversity but we don’t really do anything to get everybody together. And I feel like there’s no better way than music.”

High school members of the community also expressed interest in the concert, according to Johnson.

“SGA is looking forward to next year and continuing to work with other student organizations with their budget processes and to being an active member of the Homecoming Committee,” said Kirk.

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