With the spring semester underway, the Student Government Association is staring down a vacancy in one of its most crucial positions—the executive treasurer—for the first time at the start of a semester in at least two decades.
Executive President Lindsay Debrosse is poised to assume the role, despite no such procedure being outlined in SGA’s constitution. The position was vacant for much of the summer following former Executive Treasurer Abigail Semple’s graduation in May, and later filled during the fall by Thomas Coughlin, who declined to run for re-election.
“If we don’t find one soon—or ever this semester—I’m going to be left chairing and facilitating [the Financial Advisory Board],” Debrosse said. “That’s something brand-new I have to learn. It’s another meeting on my list. But if that’s what has to happen, that’s what has to happen.”
Sharon Duffy, the organization’s former advisor, told The Beacon in April 2020 that during her 19-year tenure with SGA, they never began a semester without an executive treasurer.
SGA’s constitution dictates the vice treasurer is to fill any vacancy in the executive treasurership. That position, however, has remained empty since Rachel Levin filled the role in 2018. In the absence of a vice treasurer, the constitution calls for the Financial Advisory Board to appoint a “treasurer pro tempore,” in which case the board would likely split the duties of the treasurer amongst themselves. The constitution also prohibits any officer from holding more than one elected SGA office at once, which Debrosse appears poised to do. No executive treasurer has been elected since Semple in 2019.
The executive treasurer controls more than $1 million in funding collected from the pockets of students via the annual student services fee, which is then doled out to student organizations. The treasurer is also responsible for overseeing the new financial equity committee, which aims to provide more direct financial assistance to students through appeals and advocacy.
To help fill the void of the position, the college plans to hire two “student organization financial assistants,” according to SGA Advisor Jason Meier. The pair, who would be paid by SGA, would take over some aspects of the treasury role, such as processing reimbursements and ensuring organizations file paperwork correctly.
“We are in the process of hiring two student workers, who will handle a lot of those day-to-day responsibilities that the treasurer used to,” Meier said. “They’re going to be the ones who are approving financial transactions, working with orgs who don’t have proper documentation, and sending those over to [Student Engagement and Leadership].”
Semple, who served as executive treasurer for the 2019-20 academic year, told The Beacon she believed the demanding workload of the position was the reason for the lack of interest in the organization’s spring elections, when no candidates ran for the treasurership, leading to Coughlin’s appointment in August.
“I don’t think anybody ever wants to do this job,” Semple said in an April 2020 interview. “This job is impossible. This job is overwhelming. This job is excessive. This job is unforgiving. This job is like a million rocks on your shoulder all day long.”
Semple repeatedly called on the college to remedy the overwhelming responsibilities by offloading some of the treasurer’s tasks to college employees.
“I’m a student and I don’t get paid to do this job,” Semple said. “There are not enough hours in the day to do this job. And it is a bit unfair to me as a student for this to fall on my shoulders. On the other side, it is unfair for students to be reliant on a fellow student to get their money back—it doesn’t feel that that is the most productive system.”
Joseph Davidi, who ran for executive treasurer against Semple before dropping out, said he lost interest in the position after realizing he would not be able to pursue other extracurricular opportunities.
“The final decision came after sitting through most of the [Annual Budget Request] and realizing that this is not something I can do at the same time with everything else,” he said in an interview in Spring 2019. “[Ian Mandt, former executive treasurer] had mentioned that he used to do a lot of TV stuff, similar to me, and had to pull it back because of treasury… I don’t want to do that.”
Chief Justice Lilly Meehan-Egan said she believes a shift in the duties and responsibilities of the treasurer will make the position more attractive.
“The role of the treasurer is to monitor SGA-allocated funds for organizations,” she said. “They don’t necessarily need to be the ones that are doing the reimbursements, and that was a lot of the work that the treasurer was doing, and so now that that has been given to student employees, the role of the treasurer can really be to facilitate conversations about how funds are impacting orgs. Hopefully, with that focus, we’ll be able to rebrand the position and advertise on social media to recruit someone into the position.”
Meehan-Egan, whose job it is to interpret the organization’s constitution, said the creation of the two student employee positions didn’t require an amendment to the organization’s constitution.
“Those are two paid positions, and the money is coming out of our SGA budget to pay them,” Meehan-Egan said. “That’s not a change we have to make in the constitution.”
Due to the student organization financial assistants, Meier said, the role of the executive treasurer can now be reconfigured.
The new role, according to Meier, will allow the treasurer to focus on “the bigger picture,” such as training organizations on how to submit budget requests, filing appeals and accompanying paperwork, and collaborating with the college and students about financial equity.
“This is someone who can then do a better job of educating student organizations about financial policy, how to spend the money,” Meier said. “The treasurer can really focus on that training aspect, appeals and facilitating a good process so that if student organizations have financial needs, that we’re able to hear them on a timely basis.”
Charlie McKenna, Chris Van Buskirk, and Andrew Brinker contributed reporting.