SGA officials denounce Treasurer’s proposed fee amendment

Update 9/19: The Financial Advisory Board did not vote on the proposed fee amendment. A discussion and potential vote are scheduled for Sept. 26  at 3 p.m. in the Student Government Association office located on the third floor of 172 Tremont St. 

Student Government Association Executive Treasurer Abigail Semple’s policy that would largely bar student organizations from charging participation fees, and remove a source of funding for several organizations, drew criticism from several SGA colleagues days prior to the vote. 

The legislation, as an amendment to the SGA treasury handbook, would directly impact the way student organizations raise money via events that charge admission or submission fees. While Semple said the amendment aims to increase student access to organizational events, several of Semple’s colleagues stated that they will not support the legislation because it does not protect organizations.

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Three Financial Advisory Board members will consider the legislation on Thursday at a meeting in SGA’s 172 Tremont St. office from 3 to 4 p.m. Voting members include Philip Leary, William Palauskas, and Joseph Augustus Johnson. Semple will not vote in Thursday’s meeting.

Should the proposal pass during the FAB meeting, the substance of the legislation will go into effect immediately. 

Prior to Thursday’s FAB meeting, several prominent SGA officials disagreed with Semple’s proposal to prohibit organizations from charging entry and submission fees. 

Executive Vice President William Palauskas said he cannot support Semple’s proposal as it does not align with his goal of supporting organizations on campus. Palauskas said he will vote against the legislation at Thursday’s FAB meeting. 

“I spoke to [SGA Executive President Raz Moayed] earlier today, and I think both of us share the sentiment that we think these ticket prices and different things really do help support organizations on campus, and it would be a real shame if it was taken away,” he said in a phone interview. “I think it really puts some pressure on [organizations] about how they’re going to get the money for those events and put on the projects that they work so hard to put on.”

Moayed said proposals that add barriers for students and organizations are not needed. While she said ensuring accessibility to events is a valid, moral, and a philosophical point, the lack of conversation between student organizations and SGA points to the likelihood that the proposal will not pass. 

“Is there a way to compromise and negotiate and find a balance between what the student organizations and what our singular treasurer mentioned? Sure, but it hasn’t been voted in yet,” Moayed said in an interview. “At the end of the day, SGA’s number one goal is to make sure that students can get what they want in an effective, safe, productive manner.”

A student at the college with knowledge of Semple’s personal interactions with EVVYs’ staff told The Beacon that the SGA treasurer’s policy would hurt the EVVYs and other organizations that charge admission or submission fees.

“[The proposal] is directly targeting the EVVYs and the effect would not just hurt the EVVYs, but other organizations that use those admission and submission fees to finish off their funding,” the student said in an interview. “It works essentially as a topper and losing that funding is just enough that it becomes a problem for them.”

The student wished to remain unnamed out of fear of retaliation for their comments. 

Semple confirmed that in a previous meeting with the leadership of the EVVYs she left the conversation feeling unwelcome in the organization, but declined to go into further detail. Semple told The Beacon that she does not hold a grudge against the EVVYs and that her policy proposal does not relate to any prior dealings with the organization. 

“This has nothing to do with any personal biases,” she said in an interview. “I’m not taking shots at anybody. We are trying to say that students have a right to keep their dollars.”

EVVYs Executive Producer Rhegan Graham wrote in a statement to The Beacon that she cannot speak to Semple’s intention behind the proposal.

“The EVVYs has always felt supported by SGA and we are very grateful for that partnership,” she wrote.  

Semple said the proposal is an attempt to protect the financial interests of students. She said students should not have to spend more to participate in organizational events when they are already paying the $436 student activities fee each semester.   

“It costs a lot to be a college student in downtown Boston,” she said in an interview. “This is an expensive place to live … This is an expensive institution to attend.”

The proposal, Semple said, would bar organizations that receive money from SGA—either in the form of a semesterly appeal or yearly budget—from requiring students to pay a fee to participate in or submit content to their events. 

This does not bar organizations from collecting charitable donations at their event on behalf of an outside organization or funds that would go into their institutional advancement fund—a bank account managed by the college and separate from SGA.  

Additionally, an organization that does not receive a yearly budget from SGA can either choose between appealing for money from SGA’s student activities fee appeals account, or charging admission and submission fees. Organizations cannot engage in both forms of fundraising. 

Semple said the EVVYs have historically appealed for approximately $30,000 each year to help finance their awards show. 

The proposal would not affect fraternity and sorority life dues, however, the organizations would fall into the category of groups that do not receive a yearly budget but can appeal for money from SGA. Similar to the EVVYs, FSL groups would either have to appeal for money or charge admission fees—one or the other.

Semple said shows run by performance organizations or the Musical Theatre Society would also be barred from requiring students to pay entrance fees. The organizations could offer a suggested donation but entrance would be covered by the student activities fee.  

“Any of our comedy troupes that charge an admittance of $2, I think the idea of charging to attend it can be a barrier of entry, regardless of what that amount is, for some members of our undergraduate community,” she said. “It’s about protecting that financial interest.” 

The proposal would affect organizations that put on events paid in part by submission and admission fees. The EVVYs, for example, charge $20 for a regular ticket to their Gala event and the lowest price for a ticket to the Majestic Theatre event costs $15. Students pay $10 to submit content to the awards show—however, the organization offers promotions throughout the year that reduce the cost. 

Graham said the organization understands that admission prices can be a barrier to entry for some students. 

“We encourage students in that position to seek out the help of the Office of Student Success, who never fails to ensure Emersonians have the best student experience possible,” she wrote.

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