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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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What’s on this year’s ballot?

Nearly every year in this space, there is an editorial imploring the student body to turn out in significant numbers to vote. But this year, there’s an urgency to that plea that cannot be ignored.

As many of you know, the Undergraduate Student Government is in charge of controlling the purse strings of the clubs and organizations on campus, leaving the people we elect in with a lot of influence of how money is distributed. It’s more than just the treasurer involved. Every member of USG brings in ideas of the changes he or she wishes to see, bringing their own personal issues to the table. Like any public office, the list of candidates has brought forth a huge range of issues that their campaigns that could change the direction USG has been going.

The elections this week brings up delicate issues of the scandals that have hit USG, the most recent one involving two former Vice Presidents. The Statesman has previously reported on the misappropriation of funds that happened during the fall 2011 semester that involved VP of Communications Farjad Fazli and VP of Clubs and Organizations Allen Abraham. Both came under fire for having their assistants on payroll, which violated USG bylaws for those offices and led to both resigning. After the payroll discrepancies, it’s surprising to see Abraham have the audacity to even think about being a treasurer.

The flip side is that Abraham has said he has learnt from his mistakes and that his experiences have taught him the lessons he needs. This is pure politics. Though we have no way to judge his credentials of managing finances, there is no reason the student body should put trust into someone who got caught for misappropriation of funds. Looking back prior to this scandal, Abraham actually sat on a budget committee as a senator, and experienced being the middle man between clubs and USG.

Sadly, this isn’t the first scandal that has hit USG, but situations like what Abraham found himself in reminds us that as the student body we must think about whom we vote for. One scandal doesn’t define a candidate, though unfortunately it can be scarring. It is crucial though to look into the past of a candidate whose prior scandal was related to the finances of USG. There are other candidates running who currently hold positions in the organization, so rather than blindly voting for a party and the nominees on their ballot, each candidate should be individualized. At the end, it’s your money, your social life and your activities that would be jeopardized. Elections have many gray areas, scandals being one. Ignoring the scandals would just be plain idiotic, but it doesn’t have to define an election. To those who complain about the work of USG, these are the issues to consider before voting for the same.

With USG’s main task to the student body is allocating money, it is hard to ignore the situation that the organization finds itself in every year. Last spring, then-Executive Vice President Alexander Dimitriyadi wrote a letter to editor that was printed in The Statesman about the condition of USG’s financial situation.

“Last spring, the USG Senate appropriated an unprecedented amount of funding towards student organizations: 57 percent, or over $1.5 million of our annual $2.8 million budget.  I quickly learned, however, that this new baseline for club funding did not come without consequence.  The USG’s operational budget, which includes services such as event programming and free one-on-one tutoring, were at risk of running out of funds mid-year without cutbacks.  In order to allow for improvement in these services, I condensed every USG operational budget line looking for funding that could be re-appropriated.”

He goes on his letter to talk about the delicate situation at hand and how he believes money should be allocated and the process by which that is decided. USG is always going to have to work within a budget, and with such a financial responsibility to the school and student body, you need to be 100 percent confident in the person you want deciding if your club is worth it.

Every two years, the Student Activity Fee’s mandatory status goes up for a vote, making this year’s election that much more vital to campus. Student life on this campus needs the Student Activity Fee. There are dozens of clubs and organizations on campus that benefit from the funds that come in from it, including The Statesman. Many complain about the lack of funding from USG, but without the student body voting to keep the Student Activity Fee mandatory this week, there could be no budgets at all. Currently, the fee is $94.25, which, compared to all the other fees, is certainly not too much to ask in order to fund the activities that we all take advantage of.

In order to fully appreciate our time on campus, we need the right people taking care of our budget. We need the right people advising the treasurer and various boards, and we need the right issues being presented during meetings. Elections are open throughout the week, leaving you with plenty of time to learn the issues each candidate wants to push forward. Our student fee builds campus involvement and a better community as a whole. There has never been a good enough reason to wait for SOLAR to load but this year,  voting in the USG elections can bring new change to Stony Brook University.

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