STAFF ED: SGA budget transparency still lacking

Ollie Gratzinger | Opinions Editor
Despite campaigning on a platform of transparency, the SGA has yet to release their budget to the public. Releasing financial information is commonplace at other universities.

09/13/2018

By Duke Staff

“I think it’s essential that we release the budget.” — James Joyce, current SGA Vice President of Finance in 2018.

“Transparency is one of the key elements that we would like to focus on … I think that we need to make SGA more transparent.” — Maria Miller, current SGA Vice President of Communication in 2017.

On Sunday, Sept. 9, the SGA had its first meeting of the year. At the meeting, those in attendance (including The Duke) were shown a pie chart of this year’s budget, divided into percentages. However, the actual total amount of the annual budget was not released. SGA President Eric Chatterjee mentioned that those numbers could only be released by a three-fifths majority SGA Senate vote. The SGA Senate made no motion to make it public.

Essentially, that leaves the student body with no information. Seeing that a program receives 15 percent of the budget is meaningless when you have no idea what that 15 percent is out of. The student body deserves to know how much the SGA receives, and the dollar amounts attached to programs like the Loop Bus and conference appropriations.

The rule they cite as barring them from making it public doesn’t physically exist. You can check the by-laws on Campus Link — there’s nothing there. We’ve looked. SGA members have even told us they don’t know where the particular by-law exists. Yet, they follow it all the same.

As part of their campaign platform, the People’s Party (which includes three out of five members of the executive board) stressed the need for transparency and their intention to release the budget if elected. So far, they have not even attempted to do so.

However, thanks to some solid math work by one of our editors, we can estimate that this year’s SGA budget is around $73,500, based on previous data. SGA Vice President of Finance James Joyce refused to confirm or deny if that number is accurate. Granted, this is only an estimate, but the true amount will never be known unless the SGA actually owns up to their campaign promise of transparency.

Duquesne’s SGA is an outlier in this way. Most college and university student governments release detailed information on their budget, because after all, it is ultimately the students’ money they are spending. Duquesne students should know how their money is spent, too.

Some of the SGA’s proposed projects seem interesting and important, but by refusing to be transparent it creates a feeling of shadiness, even if that feeling is unwarranted. Something just doesn’t seem right when you can find out more about the U.S. Defense Department’s budget than you can the SGA’s.

We believe it is imperative for our student government to, in their own words, “release the budget” and “make SGA more transparent.” It’s time to put the “student” back into the Student Government Association.

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