SGA and Beacon clash over proposed amendment

Tensions erupted on Tuesday between members of the Student Government Association and The Berkeley Beacon’s Editor-in-Chief Christopher Van Buskirk over a proposed amendment to SGA’s constitution that would end the newspaper’s affiliation with the group.

The amendment, initially scheduled to be discussed at last week’s joint session meeting, drew harsh criticism from SGA members who told Van Buskirk that it would violate Massachusetts’ tax code.

The aim of the proposed amendment was to establish The Beacon as an independent newspaper not subject to SGA oversight or control, Van Buskirk said during the meeting.

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“We call ourselves the independent student newspaper of Emerson but we’re truly not,” he said, explaining that the current funding process leaves The Beacon vulnerable to potential future limitations enacted by SGA.

Van Buskirk said the proposed amendment was to safeguard The Beacon from amendments to the SGA Treasury Handbook that could adversely affect the paper.

“Should [the Financial Advisory Board] decide to pass a policy that [The Beacon] can’t print on newsprint, that is certainly something they could do if the voting members decide to pass it,” he said. “Should FAB decide to propose a policy that we can’t advertise, that’s something that could happen.”

If the amendment were passed, The Beacon would automatically have $45,000 deposited into its institutional advancement account at the beginning of each fall semester. The newspaper would also adhere to its own treasury policy that would be regulated by its executive board, instead of following SGA’s treasury policy.

During the meeting, Executive Treasurer Abigail Semple explained that the proposed amendment would put the college in violation of the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, a state tax law relating to endowments and institutional funds, but did not cite a specific section of the act that the amendment would violate.

Later, in an interview with The Beacon, Semple added that the amendment would also violate Emerson financial policy and SGA treasury policy, but again did not specify sections of the policies that would be violated. 

“I do agree that [The Beacon] deserves some level of guaranteed funding through a process, but we agree on it differently,” she said. “Going forward, we don’t want [The Beacon] to feel that your funding is at risk, but we don’t want to do that in a way that’s illegal.”

While Semple did not support the newspaper’s proposed amendment, she offered a counterproposal that would guarantee The Beacon four percent of the money collected from student activity fees and allow it to receive further funding through the Annual Budget Request process. 

SGA Executive President Raz Moayed told The Beacon in an interview following the meeting that she hoped to find a solution that would satisfy both organizations.

“I love students who love what they’re doing,” Moayed said. “And I want to support students who have a care for their things. I just want to make sure that we do it in the right way, in an equitable way, and in a legal way. If all of those boxes are marks, I’m ready to do it.”

Van Buskirk said the meeting provided good feedback on the amendment.

“I think it was good to hear where they’re at on the amendment, and I hope they listen to my perspective on the issue and The Beacon’s perspective on the issue,” Van Buskirk said in an interview following the meeting.

SGA did not vote on the amendment on Tuesday, as Van Buskirk only wanted to engage in a discussion regarding the issues it presented.

Prior to the debate on the amendment, SGA unanimously voted to approve an appeal request of $10,369.57  from the Emerson Cheerleading Squad that they will use to purchase new mats, uniforms, and backpacks.

The organization also unanimously voted to appoint Joseph Johnson to the position of chief justice, leaving just two remaining vacancies in SGA’s executive board.

Johnson also serves as the vice president of the class of 2021, a position that allowed him to sit as a voting member on FAB. As a result of his appointment to chief justice, Johnson will no longer sit on FAB, leaving FAB with just three remaining voting members.

Editor-in-Chief Christopher Van Buskirk did not edit this article as he was the subject of much of its content.

News editor Stephanie Purifoy did not edit this article due to a conflict of interest.

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