The first Student Bar Association meeting of the 2016-17 school year took place on Tuesday evening.
Although the current SBA executive board and delegates held one meeting after being sworn in last Spring, much of Tuesday’s meeting was spent introducing members to SBA procedure. Committee chairs introduced themselves and their committee’s purview. An unanimously passed resolution streamlined and reorganized Student-Faculty Committees, which enable student body oversight of the administration of the Law Center. Other matters included proposals to amend SBA’s Constitution and Bylaws to repair procedural ambiguities.
The most vigorous debate took place surrounding this semester’s Student Organization budget. All 54 Law Center Student Organizations request a funding allocation, and the SBA Treasurer, Austin McCullough, is responsible for evaluating and replying to the requests. This semester, as in every semester, the organizations requested more than twice the approximately $60,000 available for allocation.
3L Delegate Barr Benyamin raised an objection to the budget during the debate period, and voted against the resolution. The Appropriations Committee had received the final budget less than 24 hours before the budget vote was called, and the general delegates had not received the budget until minutes before the vote was to be carried out. He cited a general lack of transparency in the budget report as well. While the requested and granted amounts for each student organization were available, Benyamin argued that information such as the number of events held by an organization, the number of events they hold, and how much these events cost should be made available.
In response, McCullough, SBA President Sandor Callahan and Vice President Joe Altieri defended McCullough’s integrity and the discretion granted to his office by the student body when he was elected. Many delegates agreed with Benyamin’s concerns about transparency, but felt that voting down the budget would be unfair to student organizations who depend on SBA funding. Instead, they suggest budget procedure adjustments down the road.
Despite the debate, the budget passed nearly unanimously.
Student Bar Association meetings occur every other Tuesday at 9 p.m. in Hotung 2000. Meetings are open to all Law School students.