College Republicans battle SGA over funding

By Julian Routh | News Editor

The Duquesne College Republicans accused the Student Government Association of discriminating against their organization after they were denied funding in October for a conference.

College Republicans president Bridget Seelinger said her organization was treated unfairly in the process to obtain $500 in SGA budget appropriations.

Seelinger said that because her group is a recognized student organization, “it is our right to receive funding.”

“They have not given me a valid reason of why, [the money] is just sitting in their bank account not being used,” Seelinger said.

SGA vice president of finance Nikolas Kouknas said the College Republicans were denied funding based on a number of criteria the SGA considers when allocating money, including the Republicans’ lack of fundraising.

A letter to Seelinger from SGA president Attila Mihalik on Oct. 30 detailed the SGA’s reasoning in declining to dole out the money.

“The [student] Senate felt that since the College Republicans are a newly re-established organization, it should be given more time to grow into a proven organization of dedicated membership with structured executive leadership,” Mihalik wrote.

Seelinger first requested $7,700 on Sept. 24 to take 11 members of the organization to the Young America’s Foundation Fall Conference in Santa Barbara, Calif. The SGA finance committee met on Oct. 5 to discuss allocating money to conferences, and voted to give the College Republicans $500 out of the fall 2013 budget.

The SGA gets $10,000 per semester to give to student organizations.

“We’re a club trying to get off the ground and we expect the support from the student body and the University to get it off the ground,” Seelinger said.

On Oct. 20, the bill to appropriate $500 was brought in front of the Senate, where members of the finance committee represented the College Republicans. The bill did not pass in the Senate because “they didn’t think it was feasible for an organization that was just established to go” to the conference, Kouknas said.

“I believe that we were falsely represented before the Senate,” Seelinger said on Oct. 23. “One of the senators got up and spoke as us.”

To address these concerns, the SGA called a special meeting on Oct. 27, allowing Seelinger to present her case in front of the senators for reconsideration. The Senate rejected Seelinger’s request to video record.

The meeting, which occurred in room 119 of the Duquesne Union, resulted in the SGA declining to appropriate any money to the College Republicans.

“They tried to trip me up with my own constitution,” Seelinger said. “They also called up the conference and asked questions to the conference. They just did everything they could in their power to bully me and intimidate me.”

Kouknas said the senators thought the College Republicans had multiple opportunities to fundraise before approaching the SGA for money.

Instead of money, the SGA offered “additional guidance and assistance” to the organization, Mihalik said.

“A lot of Senate members are very understanding of her initiative and her great drive to improve the organization,” Mihalik said. “We are here for her, and with the upcoming semester, we hope she addresses some of the internal issues within her organization to propel it forward.”

Seelinger said she wants the SGA to release their full budget to the student body so students can see where the SGA’s money is going. The SGA provided Seelinger with a brief list of budget appropriations, but not the full budget.

“I’m willing to have a civil conversation about this,” Seelinger said. “I want to see where they are spending their money.”

The SGA will provide Seelinger with the full budget “upon her clarification of the reasoning,” Mihalik said.

Seelinger approached the Young America’s Foundation for assistance in dealing with the situation. The foundation said they would be willing to bring her and one other person to Santa Barbara for the conference, she said.

The conference will bring young Republicans together to learn from top leaders in the Conservative Movement and tour President Ronald Reagan’s ranch. In her original request to the SGA, Seelinger said the conference “will be a great way to boost membership and invigor our members to do more activism on campus.”