GAPSA struggles to fill seats, pass plans

Some members say the group is too focused on its financial issues.

by Haley Hansen

While its funding remains in flux, the Graduate and Professional Student Association is having trouble filling seats at its meetings.

The student government group at its Tuesday night assembly failed again to pass an operational budget and make concrete decisions on its plans for the rest of semester.

The group hasn’t had enough people at its meetings for a vote to count since the beginning of the semester, and some members are citing the group’s current financial situation as the cause.

An investigation into GAPSA’s finances that began months ago is still underway. In May, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young announced an investigation into the group’s finances after an alleged $93,000 budget discrepancy, putting the group’s funding on hold for the 2014-15 school year.

The group will also see a 35 percent cut to its fees request for failing to comply with Student Services Fees Committee deadlines.

GAPSA received more than $390,000 in student services fees last school year.

While the group planned to receive its funding before the start of the school year, GAPSA Vice President Ashley Hall said the group is now hoping to have its funds unfrozen by the end of the semester.

GAPSA had planned to pass its operational budget and vote to liquidize its long-term investments to sustain its expenses while waiting to receive its funding from the University on Tuesday night.

But fewer than 26 members showed up to the meeting, making the assembly unable to vote on anything.

Some members say the low turnout is partially due to GAPSA’s unstable financial state.

“There are some councils that are not showing up at all, and that’s a big concern,” said Keaton Miller, a representative for the Council of Graduate Students.

Miller said the group’s meetings this semester have largely focused on its budget and financial problems.

While he said it’s important to discuss those issues, some members feel those discussions aren’t relevant to them as students.

“I think the financial challenges that GAPSA has faced has dominated their agenda and dominated the time spent by the executives,” Miller said.

GAPSA President Alfonso Sintjago said the group can still discuss graduate and professional student issues without quorum, but it can’t make final decisions on any resolutions until enough members show up.

“For binding decisions, my hands are tied right now,” he said.

Hall said the financial problems have stopped the group from addressing issues important to students.

“We walked into quite a mess that we really didn’t realize we were getting ourselves into,” she said. “It’s really deterred us from doing a lot of the work we wanted to do.”

Because the group didn’t have quorum Tuesday, it couldn’t approve its slate of SSFC members for the 2015-16 school year, which is responsible for distributing student services fees to the University’s student groups and administrative units.

In 2013, the SSFC allocated more than $2 million in fees to about 70 student groups. Funding from the SSFC helps groups cover operating and programming expenses.

GAPSA hopes it can approve the SSFC slate at its next meeting on Nov. 19. If it doesn’t, the fees process will still move forward, said Sara Carvell, the fees committee’s adviser.

Despite low turnout at the meeting, the group  discussed issues it wants to tackle this year, such as graduate student tuition and assisting student parents.

And while Hall said the group has “a negative cloud” hanging over it right now, she said GAPSA can accomplish some of its goals without funding.

“You don’t need money to write resolutions, and you don’t need money to talk to legislators and make change,” she said.