SGA Bear Grant vote generates debate

Mercer’s Student Government Association voted Monday night on legislation to approve Bear Grant applications. Requests for Bear Grant funding were submitted several weeks ago, and student organizations eligible for funding met with SGA’s Fiscal Affairs committee prior to Monday’s senate.

Discussion about the vote became heated as the night went on. A key point of contention was the transfer of money from both the Conference and Lodging Fund (new this year) and Special Funding to make up for a budget overage in Bear Grant Funding. 

“I was pleased to see Senators taking an active stance when approaching student issues. However, the contention of transferring a relatively small portion of the budget was quite unexpected – especially on my part,” said SGA President Jordan Locke.

Locke said that because the Conference and Lodging Fund is a new addition to the SGA Budget, he and Vice President Ekeke had to make an estimation as to how to allocate money to the three Fiscal Affairs fund: Bear Grants, Special Funding and Conference and Lodging. “Although approximately $2,000 seems like a lot to be taken out of the line item for Conference and Lodging Funding, there will still be approximately $20,000 left in the budget.

The legislation did pass, with a single amendment to delay voting on Students for Environmental Action’s grant request until next Monday’s senate.

Senior Trent White, Senior Senator for SGA, voted no on the legislation.

I voted no because the bill was over budget. Funds were moved from Conference and Lodging funding to cover the extra $3,462. Judging from years of past experience, several organizations will not be able to attend conferences as a result and we will most likely get more than this amount in refunds at the end of the year. This refund money will therefore not go to student organizations as it was originally intended,” White said.

White also stated that there is a mechanism in place for Fiscal Affairs to cut a small percentage along all line items, and he feels this process was bypassed.

Locke said he is pleased the legislation passed and, although the committee went over its proposed budget, he does not think groups seeking funding for conferences will be adversely affected. “Per last year’s budget, we estimated that if a Conference and Lodging Fund had existed, we would have spent approximately $16,560. The monies that will remain in for Conference and Lodging will be approximately $20,000. Therefore, theoretically, we’ll be able to fund even more organizations than last year,” he said.

Locke said that Student Organization Funding is important to his administration, a reason why the Fiscal Affairs Budget is larger than any other committee budget, including the executive/operational budget.

Although the conversation was heated at times, Locke said he is glad the discussion took place.

“Democracy as an institution would not be nearly as effective without discussions like the one we had on Monday. I am personally pleased that funding was passed and am looking forward to seeing the student requests for the remaining funding,” he said.