Sunday, March 25, 2007

Colorado Student Union Approves Controversial Budget

Fraternity measure OK'd
By PAULA PANT Colorado Daily Staff Writer

The CU Student Union (UCSU) approved a highly controversial budget bill that cuts funding from most programs on campus and also requires those programs to treat fraternities like official student groups in order to receive any money.

Legislative Council Vice President Chris Kline cast the tiebreaking vote, 9-8, in favor of the Greek Organizations and Autonomy Amendment, which stipulates CU's student, health and recreation centers can only receive millions of dollars in student money if they rent rooms to fraternities at in-house prices.

“I was surprised that it came to me,” Kline said. “You know it's 50/50 and - it's awkward, to say the least.”

Just after UCSU approved the Greek Organizations amendment in its larger budget bill, the group immediately passed the budget bill as a whole.

That bill decreases funding for Nightride, Volunteer ClearingHouse, Program Council, the Cultural Events Board, the Women's Resource Center, and UCSU itself.

The Greek Organizations amendment puts the cost centers in the awkward position of choosing between UCSU's mandate or the CU administration's directive to make fraternities - which are unaffiliated from CU - pay outside rates.

The amendment could also force the CU administration to formally dispute the budget bill.

The amendments' supporters say that dispute would test the true limits of UCSU's power.

Less than an hour before Thursday's UCSU meeting, CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said this isn't a power dispute - a 1985 autonomy agreement clearly gives the CU Chancellor the ultimate authority, he said.

“We disagree with this as a tactic,” said CU spokesperson Bronson Hilliard. “There's no need to pass this legislation as a way of bringing this conversation (about fraternity access) to the table. We feel like we are already at the table.”
UCSU Representative Medhat Ahmed and Senator Jessica Bralish questioned why a section of the Greek Organizations amendment includes giving fraternities $15,000 for legal fees.

Ahmed said it appears to be special-interest legislation.

“A number” of CU Regents are worried about the Greek Organizations amendment, said CU alumni and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brother Scott Martinez, who served as UCSU tri-executive in 1998-99.“It's smart for fraternities to try to gain clout on UCSU to push their agenda,” Martinez said at public hearing. “[But] I think the tool that is being used right now is too blunt for this type of endeavor.”

In its larger budget bill, UCSU approved maintaining funding for underrepresented center SORCE (Student Outreach and Retention Center for Equity), awarding it the same budget as last year plus inflationary increases.

A strong faction of UCSU favors tightening the budget, which would lower student fees by reducing some programs.

Another strong UCSU contingent, plus almost everyone who has spoken at UCSU's public hearing, favor funding the programs.

No one in UCSU objected to cutting their own budget.“When we are asking people to look at the programs and find where their deadweight it, I think it would be hypocritical not to do it ourselves,” said Representative Scott McEachron.
UCSU Chief of Staff Ryan Keane said he favors cutting the executive budget, which right now has a balance surplus of $117,000. It's saving in several small ways - for example, at the moment it's employing one office manager instead of two.

CU sophomore Anastasia Maines became the first and only student to ever speak in favor of budget cuts at UCSU's public hearing. Maines said she appreciates UCSU's efforts to be more disciplined and restrained in its spending of student money.

About five to six students spoke against cutting the budget of the Cultural Events Board (CEB), which funds campus speakers and evening programs. On April 18 CEB will bring former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to CU.

“We are putting ourselves on the level with the Yales and Harvards and the Stanfords by bringing a speaker of this caliber,” said CU junior and Distinguished Speakers Board Treasurer Katelin Lucariello. “This will be our first year bringing a speaker of this caliber and because of budget cuts it might be our last.”