Every student at UMBC pays a $98 activity fee to the university every year. This fee is used by the Student Government Association to fund clubs and activities on campus, and adds up to approximately $250,000 that the Student Government Association and Finance Board control.
Most students do not know where the activity fee goes or how it is distributed to the 270 various student organizations on campus. Every organization must have a treasurer, whose job is to request funds from the SGA for activities. Prospective treasurers must go through Treasurer Training before they are allowed to request money from the SGA. This is so that they understand how the process of requesting funds works.
According to the Treasurer Training presentation, “the finance board exists to determine whether organizations’ requests are a good use of the ‘student dollar.’” Senior political science major Meghan Lynch was elected to be the Vice President for Student Organizations. Lynch was a student treasurer in an organization on campus and realized that the process for finance board was confusing and could be improved and chose to run for the SGA to attempt to make a change.
Lynch explains, “The SGA is a governance body, and in many ways an intermediary between students and administration.” On many levels, the SGA is supposed to be equal to administration. The students have a senate which meets just like faculty and staff, each with their own senate as well. Each senate meets to help achieve the best for the groups they represent.
A problem with the SGA is that “they tell us what to do, especially when it comes to all this paperwork and bureaucracy you have to go to to apply for funds,” says Lynch. “It comes from other people [university administration], and often time it’s these processes made without input of the SGA, and we have to go and tell that to student orgs,” Lynch continues. This makes things difficult for the SGA because it is supposed to be on equal footing with university administration, but more often than not, its decisions are made by the administration.
Recently, multiple Facebook discussions on UMBC group pages have been posted, describing individual problems with the Finance Board and the SGA. The student body appears to have mixed opinions on the SGA and think that it is fully in charge of everything. When criticizing the SGA, it is important to understand its functions and what it can and cannot do. When some people are complaining about the SGA, their actual frustration is with the Finance Board. However, this distinction is not made clear to students.
“As much as it was concerning to see everything blow up on social media, it’s also a good thing, because it shows that people are now interested in paying attention,” Lynch says, on the topic of online complaints against the SGA. She explains, “It gives SGA an opportunity to make changes to policies that we have. But it would’ve been better if it were a conversation.”
It is easier to explain individual issues and problems in person than it is to read in an email or a Facebook post. The doors to the SGA are always open to students, and it is easy to go in and see members of the SGA and talk through grievances students have. “We heard you loud and clear, in big bold letters,” Lynch concludes regarding the Facebook posts.
The SGA and Finance Board are two groups on campus that are misunderstood by the UMBC community. The student body must take the time to understand where the SGA is coming from for them to better understand the policies laid down. The SGA must also understand the student body and do its best to be more active and seen by the student body so that the partnership can work smoothly.