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SGA travel fund guidelines under revision

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By Andrea Torres | The Rider

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The Student Government Association Financial Affairs Standing Committee is amending its travel fund guidelines to make the application instructions less vague, the committee chair says.

Revisions are being made due to issues that arose after funds for the first quarter were awarded.

“That’s what I want to do, I want to make sure [the guidelines are] defined so that my actions are backed up,” Julian Verdream, Financial Affairs Standing Committee chair, said after Friday’s senate meeting. “Because, like, I am not doing anything wrong, nor is my committee. We’re not breaking any rules or going against anything in any way. We are just operating with what is implied because there is no definite information. … We just want to make sure the roles are defined.”

The $70,000 travel budget, which comes from student fees and is administered by the committee, is awarded at $17,500 per quarter.

During the senate meeting, Verdream presented an update on the issues that arose since the approval of the first quarter funds.

“Today, at the financial affairs committee meeting, due to an error and to remain fair to every student and applicant, we had to revisit how we were approving funds,” he told the senate.

The initial confusion came when the committee and SGA Finance Secretary Vicente Martinez needed to decide who was going to give preliminary approval to travel fund requests, Verdream said in an interview after the meeting.

“[Martinez] skips through the people who are ineligible and forwards it to us and then we approve them based on how we see fit just because of how [the guidelines are] all worded,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything specific. It’s vague.”

College of Business and Entrepreneurship Senator Alberto Adame questioned Verdream on the division of funds into quarters, the deadlines and the way the funds were approved.

“My problem was, initially, that the chairman of the committee of financial affairs, who is supposed to be kind of well-versed in how finance works, did not bring out the issue that the senate separated funding into four quarters without knowing how many conferences, for sure, per quarter,” Adame said in a phone interview Monday.

Martinez told The Rider that the quarters were first brought up by SGA Adviser Delma Olivarez and the executive team.

“We were trying to come with better ideas and better ways in order to be more effective and efficient for students and for ourselves, too,” Martinez said. “We, me [and Olivares], looked at past requests from students to see which are the peak seasons. The first quarter and the third quarter are the ones with most requests.”

Martinez said he is planning to make more money available during peak quarters when students are going to more conferences, such as the third quarter.

Adame said he has asked Senate Chair Eric Silva to remove Verdream from his position as finance committee chair.

Silva, who did not confirm Adame sent him an email requesting Verdream’s removal, said he and senate officers are “meeting and having discussions with the executive team and our advisers as we’re trying to resolve all of the issues that have come up.”

In other SGA business, Brownsville Vice President Alondra Galvan presented an update on projects she is working on, including the meeting she had with University Librarian Paul Sharpe about extending library hours during finals week.

“Thankfully, we are going to get 24 hours during finals,” Galvan told the senate. “The library agreed to having extended hours during finals week, but this is going to be our test run. … When we have finals, we really, really need to spread out the word that the library is going to be open.”

Both libraries will be open 24 hours Dec. 8 and Dec. 11-14. They will have normal operating hours Dec. 9, 10 and 15.

The next SGA meeting is scheduled at 2 p.m. Friday in Education Complex Room 1.102 in Edinburg and in Biomedical Research and Health Building Room 1.222 in Brownsville. All SGA meetings are open to students.

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