On Friday, Feb. 1, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) Senate voted nine to three to publish their annual budget in full on its website. Unlike the 2011-2012 budget currently published on aspc.pomona.edu, the 2012-2013 published budget will include line-items indicating how much of ASPC’s funds are allotted to each student-run organization, ASPC partnerships and operations, senators’ individual budgets and stipends (for the Vice Presidents and President only), and administrative expenses.
According to Senate adviser Ellie Ash-Balá, the Senate has not previously published a line-item budget due to the potential confusion and dissatisfaction it could generate.
“Other years, [the Senate] didn’t want to put it out there presumably because people might see things and not understand why some decisions were made and make assumptions that maybe weren’t true,” Ash-Balá said.
The Senate tried to address this problem with a motion proposed by Sophomore Class President Reina Buenconsejo PO ’15 that suggested the Senate publish a limited budget online but provide a detailed line-item budget only to students who requested more information via e-mail.
Commissioner of Clubs and Sports Emma Wolfarth PO ’14 expressed support for Buenconsejo’s motion because she said she saw publishing a line-item budget as a potential waste of the Senate’s time. According to Wolfarth, students could take issue with some of the information they find in the budget, especially in regard to how much funding clubs receive. Club funding is determined by a number of factors, including the number of Pomona students involved in the organization, the number of members overall, whether the club has established itself and proven that it spends money responsibly, and how much money has rolled over in an organization’s account from a previous year. According to Wolfarth and Ash-Balá, this could cause students to wonder why funding amounts for different clubs appear unequal in the budget, which reflects only one year in isolation.
“It’s the idea of discouraging those who don’t understand the process and don’t really care to understand from simply complaining out of stumbling upon information and then creating chaos out of nothing,” Wolfarth said. “I voted ‘no’ on the second [line-item budget] motion not because I have an issue with transparency, but because I think that there is a lot better use of Senate’s time.”
Ash-Balá said she shared Wolfarth’s concerns but added that Senate transparency should also be taken into consideration.
“There’s a lot of stuff that people don’t know, and so I think there is a risk of people not understanding and maybe assuming things … which could then be problematic. Some clubs are going to look and feel slighted,” Ash-Balá said. “But then for the sake of transparency, other senators have argued, ‘No, people should get to know, and if they have questions, they can ask, and we can explain.’”
Buenconsejo’s motion was eventually overruled by the passing of the line-item total transparency proposal from Vice President for Campus Activities Joseph Reynolds PO ’15, but before the final vote was called there was considerable confusion between senators about whether the two motions were mutually exclusive.
There was also confusion about the Senate’s bylaws regarding voting when the actual vote was called. The first motion, for limited transparency, technically passed with six in favor, five against, and one abstaining. However, because six votes did not constitute a true majority of the total 12 eligible voting members present, senators were unclear if the motion had in fact passed.
Also, a number of senators voted in favor of both the limited transparency motion and the full transparency motion, which seemed to be inconsistent.
“It’s simply the first time that someone has ripped through the very fabric of logic. It doesn’t make any sense,” Wolfarth said. “It’s not that I’m really that upset about the decision; I don’t think it was a great decision, but I’m going to live with it, but I think that the way it was just done makes less than no sense.”