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Senate Spars Again Over Appropriation Request for Gifts

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For the second time in two weeks, Student Association’s legislative agenda was bogged down by a debate surrounding an appropriations bill, paving the way for a rule change in how student groups can spend appropriation dollars in the coming weeks.

Wednesday’s debate circled around a $427 appropriation request from Doctors IV Hope, an on-campus organization that aims to support academic, service, and professional development for pre-medical and health students.

Divided into two lines, it was the second line which sparked debate. This line sought $104 to purchase “thank you” gestures for the event’s guest speakers, once again raising concerns about SA’s appropriation budget and whether money given to student groups should be used to purchase gifts.

“Should we be giving gifts out with appropriation money?” asked Mitchell Ryback, chair of the Board of Finance, who voiced similar concerns the previous week when SA debated whether to give La Dolce Vita, appropriation money to purchase gift cards. “Money we take out of appropriations [now] isn’t going to go to another group in the future.”

“We should give gifts,” said SA President Jerlisa Fontaine who explained the medical field can be overwhelming. The gesture expresses appreciation for those taking the time out to speak to students on campus and allows students to networking, she said.

According to Senate Chair Jarrett Altilio, a member of SA for the last four years, there is no history for using appropriation money to purchase gifts and doing so now would not be in the interest of student groups on campus.

“This is not how we [SA] operate a budget,” said Altilio before moving to strike the request from the bill before it went up for final vote. “We are not here to provide gifts for students nor are we here to provide gifts for adults whether they’re doctors or not.”

The $104 was eventually struck from the bill giving Doctors IV Hope only $322.50 of its original $427.79 request.

Sen. Lela Edwards, during the debate, brought attention to the fact there is no by-law pertaining to the use of appropriations money for gifts, and suggested the issue be addressed moving forward.

“I’m going to sponsor a bill that would cut the possibility of gifts being purchased with Student Association money,” said Mark Anthony-Quinn, chairman of the Appropriations committee in an interview following the meeting.

Quinn explained he does not want an internal debate between SA members to hold any groups back in the future and said a meeting between himself and other high-ranking members of the senate would take place before the next SA meeting to further discuss a solution.

“We as the senate had a good, healthy conversation” said Quinn. “We’re going to work with the entire executive committee to come up with a solution to this problem.”

Further information regarding the proposed bill was not available as of writing, however, a final draft is expected to be presented to SA in the coming weeks.

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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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