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SA T-Shirt order sparks controversy among students

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The Student Association debated whether personalizing $1,500 in senate T-shirts was unfair to student groups before agreeing on a final design Wednesday night.

The debate set a precedent, according to Jeffrey Shapiro, chair of the Appropriations Committee, who spoke against customizing the T-shirts with the names of each senator.

“We’re holding everyone else to a higher standard than we are ourselves,” Shapiro said during the debate. “Keep in mind people are upset that we’re getting these T-shirts.”

Apparel is not prohibited under SA rules, but there are strict guidelines for any student group looking to purchase uniforms or promotional apparel, especially if said apparel is “being customized for individuals in the organization.”

Groups must receive prior approval from the Comptroller’s office before purchasing any form of apparel, according to the Treasurer’s Handbook, SA’s must-know rules for any student groups looking to spend allocated funds.

The office can either approve the purchase, deny with reason, or outright deny the request using the principles of viewpoint neutrality.

Customizing senate T-shirts would make it difficult for SA to deny a similar request from a student group going forward, according to Shapiro.

“It is going to be a double-standard the second we say no to a student group who wants this,” he said.

Several senators argued SA is different from other student groups on campus because members of the organization are elected officials.

“Some instances we should be holding ourselves to a higher standard, some instances we stay the same standard, and some instances we have to have a little bit more privileges to act as a government body,” said Brandon Holdridge, SA senate chair, following Wednesday’s debate.

Shapiro disagreed.

“If anything, we should beholden ourselves to a higher standard since we’re the ones distributing this money,” he said.

SA’s budget is divided into two parts: an internal operating budget and an external budget, which funds over 120 student groups.

Both portions of the estimated $2.7 million total budget are funded from student activity fee money, a mandatory $110 per semester fee for students taking six or more credits.

Money to purchase the T-shirts was approved by SA’s senate in May along with funding for polo shirts for the organization’s Executive branch.

The T-shirts will serve as a uniform for senators during SA sponsored events with the hope of increasing the organization’s visibility on campus, according to Holdridge.

“I want to get the word out that we have senators and that they actually exist, and that they can do good for you,” he said. “The biggest thing that you will always hear every single year of your life here is that no one knows what this student government does.

“I would like to set the record straight by having senators actual have these shirts on and going out into campus.”

Last year, SA did not purchase T-shirts until late in the spring semester, something Holdridge said “served no purpose.”

“We will actually have an opportunity for it to serve what it is actually supposed to be used for, as a uniform,” Holdridge said. “We actually have some use for the $1,500 we’re spending.”

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Chad Arnold is a reporter for the Albany Student Press covering Student Association affairs. He is also an die-hard heavy metal fan.

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