FACT CHECK: Responding to SGA Treasurer Carly Socha

With the advent of the UMBC Student Government Association’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Proposal, The Retriever Editorial Board will be fact-checking and responding to as much information about the budget as possible. We will start with a post from the UMBC Memes for Smoke-Free Teens Facebook page, posted on Feb. 19 by SGA Treasurer, Carly Socha, and delineated in bold text. The Retriever’s response is in plain text.   

Little known fact: SGA ACTUALLY MEANS WELL!!

The Retriever is inclined to agree. While the proposed budget does significantly cut funding for The Retriever, many of the points made during the SGA Senate meeting on Feb. 18 when the budget was unveiled are completely valid. We, as an organization, do believe that the budget was proposed with the university’s best interests, namely, that student organizations should have resources for additional funding so that they are able to facilitate campus-wide events and pay for their club’s needs.      

Hi! I’m Carly, the SGA Treasurer, and I made the SGA budget with prez Collin Sullivan over the past couple weeks and I want to provide more context for this before y’all go ham in our feedback form (which I encourage cuz I’d love to hear as many views as possible and thank you Sonia B’oring-steiin for sharing those!)

The link to feedback is here.

  1. The reasoning for the cut to The Retriever is because they have a TON of money in their reserves account. SGA typically provides them 60K a year but they have >100K in their account. So in a collaborative effort with them to bring down their reserves to a more reasonable amount, we’re providing half of what we typically have provided and they know and understand that.

The Retriever was informed of the decision to cut their funding on Friday, Feb. 15. The SGA Senate meeting when this proposal was made public was Monday, Feb. 18. As per budget line items addressed in the SGA Senate meeting by Collin, it seems as if every other major stakeholder in the proposed budget cuts discussion was included in a conversation with SGA before cuts were officially made.

While the statement that The Retriever has a ton of money in our reserve account is true, The Retriever’s reserve account is largely comprised of advertisement revenue that advertisement and business managers, in addition to their associates, have made over the years in order to supplement funding to The Retriever that the $60k yearly SGA allocation does not cover. This includes, but is not limited to: travel expenses so we can cover big basketball wins and send our staff to journalism conferences, additional technology and resources, like dry erase boards for our office, and updated newspaper bins and furniture for our office.

Additionally, we encounter issues that SGA and Student Events Board, the other charter organization, do not. We can be sued for the work that we do. Last semester, because of our coverage of the ongoing Title IX investigation at UMBC, we almost were. We keep our reserves high in the event we need to consult legal counsel outside of the university. Additionally, because of our coverage of SGA and campus administration, we can be defunded significantly or completely. Our reserves are meant to be able to tide us over for at least one year until the SGA executive board changes.   

  1. The cut to Take Back the Night was because Collin and I met with Jess Myers, Director of the Women’s Center, and she said that they do not need nor spend the entire $2500 that we typically allocate to them. Thus we agreed that $1500 was plenty for SGA to contribute and there’s no bad blood there.

This is absolutely true, as per Collin’s explanation at the SGA Senate meeting on Feb. 18: “They [The Women’s Center] did not even know that they had $2500 for this fiscal year,” he said. “No one had a conversation with them about their funding for Take Back the Night since the fund was introduced two years ago. They, as well, are okay with $1500 and have said that is what they want and expect of their programming. This wasn’t a cut for cut’s sake.”

  1. We’re increasing SGA stipends because Senators and Finance Board reps sit in 4/5 hour meetings once a week, every week for the entire year and get paid ~$750 total for that and countless other hours of meetings. So yes, we’re filling our pockets, so we can be more competitive with other on campus jobs like Desk Staffers and RAs. SGA has struggled with retention and even getting people to run for office cuz people have to take other jobs to stay afloat.

The Retriever does not begrudge SGA the desire to raise their stipends; there are legitimate concerns of retention and garnering interest that The Retriever shares within its own organizational practices. However, by this logic, The Retriever should also be able to raise its own stipends to reflect the influences of the economy and the work we put into our student leadership positions. Our lowest paid stipend position, our contributing writer, makes $320 per fiscal year. This writer is expected to be working every week, reaching out to the campus community for interviews and researching their article topics, and writing at least every two weeks. Writers, depending on their beat, typically work between five and ten hours a week. Most of our writers write every week because they want to advance to leadership positions.

Under this proposed budget, The Retriever would be faced with the unfortunate decision of whose salaries to cut and whose to save in order to make it through the two years of funding at the $30k level.  

  1. With costumes and props and non-expendable items, there’s a university policy through the Student Affairs Business Services Center that vaguely lists things that are considered to be “equipment” in which they will not process those items for purchase using money allocated to an org by SGA. BUT I may have an idea to side step that, there’s just a few things that would need to fall into place first.

The Retriever would love to hear about this initiative, and we eagerly await any news that can help out our student organization partners.

This all may sound shady and vague, but I promise this is me being honest and transparent! Please let me know if you’d like to learn more and we can have a conversation in-person. Feel free to email me at carl8@umbc.edu or sga@umbc.edu.

Sorry for the long post, but I want y’all to stay informed. Please give us feedback. Thanks!

Again, the link for feedback is here.