Student Body President Colin Davis faced scrutiny from members of the Associate Students of Southern Oregon University on Tuesday, Oct. 4 as representatives were debriefed on the details surrounding the Back 2 Class Bash held on Oct. 1. Throughout the meeting concerns of the large amount of money that was spent in addition to the lack of transparency throughout the planning process were addressed.
“At the end of the day there wasn’t a lot of clarity or transparency for students,” said Ricardo Lujan-Valerio, Associate Justice of the Judicial Branch, addressing the actions Davis took to secure funding of the concert despite the limited input from ASSOU members. “As the head of government you have the responsibility to let them know.”
To fund the event, Davis submitted an emergency fund request to the ASSOU Advisory Council, comprised of Davis himself, the Speaker of the Senate, the Chief Justice, the President of the Residence Hall Association, and the Chair of the Black and Red Crew of SOU. The Council has the power to speak for student government in case of an emergency or unexpected student body related events when the three branches of ASSOU are not in session or unable to convene. Despite the council’s jurisdiction, some questioned their exclusion when funding was being discussed over the summer.
“I was here all summer and I didn’t see anything about this concert,” stated Riley McDuffey, ASSOU senator for non-traditional students and the Military Affairs and Higher Education Center.
“Why didn’t any heads of government include us in this process when it was happening over summer,” asked Oneta Cantlon, the Arts and Performance Senator.
“Since all of us couldn’t be a part of it, we took charge of it,” Davis responded to concerns.
The council meetings at which the funding was approved took place entirely over the phone. Available meeting minutes show the first of which to take place on July 19. The initial meeting in which council members were sworn in to their positions took place sometime before this. Public minutes or agendas were never posted. Public meeting agendas for the following three meetings were never posted and those minutes were not made public until September.
“[Agendas] weren’t publicly posted and that was my bad,” said Davis.
“That should have been a public meeting instead of over the phone,” said Emily Pfeiffer, Director of Governmental Affairs. “I’m concerned why that didn’t happen back in July.”
Over the course of three separate meetings two requests totaling $55,000 were approved to be taken from an unappropriated reserve fund made up of leftover Incidental Fee income. This left roughly $113,000 left, according to meeting minutes. Only 334 tickets in total were sold according to Davis, though it is still unclear the amount of tickets that were sold at the general admission price and those sold at the discounted student price.
ASSOU bylaws require this type of fund request to be a one-time, non-recurring expense, be of an emergency nature, and have potential to impact a large group of students. In addition Davis must fundraise at least ten to twenty percent of the proposed budget.
Bylaws also state that “absent a grave emergency, there shall be no funding requests submitted or approved during the Summer Term.” However, “justifiable emergencies shall be considered by the ASSOU Advisory Council.”
Davis’ main argument for requesting the money was the threat of low retention rates on the Southern Oregon University campus. “It was discussed among the advisory council that we thought the lack of events on campus was a big issue,” he said.
“How do you determine an emergency when you have no solid proof that [retention] is going to be a problem this year when you asked for funding in July,” asked McDuffey during the Oct. 4 meeting.
“The committee thought that freshman retention was a problem that could be solved by this concert,” replied Davis.
“Do you think it was ethically reasonable for the committee to approve an event like this when past requests have not gone through as easily,” asked Lujan.
“I do believe so,” Davis said. “It was brought to risk management and the [university] president before the advisory committee.”
When asked what he would do differently Davis said that he would have a longer planning process and get as many people involved as possible. “Everyone that did come enjoyed their time there but I don’t think that the recruitment of it was successful.”
Oct. 22: Story edited to include the initial Advisory Council Meeting in which council members were sworn in. Public meeting minutes or agendas for the meeting were never posted.