Correction (1:13 a.m. Jan. 22):Due to a reporting error, and earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Student Congress representative Lee Storrow voted in favor of appropriating student fee money to the Communication Studies Graduate Student Association and ScreenArts. He actually voted against funding the groups. The story has been changed to reflect the correction. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
Student Congress appropriated almost $9,000 of student fee money Tuesday to a graduate student group, even though representatives could not agree on whether the group qualified for funding.
The significant appropriation to an organization closely tied to an academic department spurred debate among members in regard to the types of programs student fees should fund.
The money was directed to the Communication Studies Graduate Student Association and ScreenArts, which work closely with the Department of Communication Studies to plan events.
Members of Congress seemed unsure as to whether they had the authority to fund programs associated with academic departments and about the degree to which the group fell into that category.
“My major concern with the bill was that it felt like we were subsidizing an academic department,” said representative Maggie Zhou, who voted against giving the group the money.
The graduate student group received $8,650 of a $10,000 request to produce the 2010 “Media Makers Series.” The money will be used to host speakers and put on presentations as part of the 13-event series, which will take place from January through April.
According to Title V of the Student Code, only student groups recognized by the Division of Student Affairs can receive money from Congress, which would bar academic departments from receiving money. But there is no rule prohibiting student groups tied to academic departments from receiving money.
There was disagreement among Congress representatives about the nature of the graduate student group and whether it was too closely tied to the department. Members said it can be difficult to discern the difference between a student group and an academic program.
“I think it’s a gray area as to whether or not it’s academic,” Speaker Dakota Williams said.
Representative Lee Storrow, who voted against giving the group the money and asked that the amount be reduced, said he was apprehensive about the total cost of the request.
“I thought the appropriation was higher than the merit of the event dictated,” he said.
It was also unclear to representatives how many people would attend the series, an issue that often factors into Congress’s decision to provide funding for an event.
“I was concerned that it’s going to be the same 100 to 200 people that attend each event in the series,” Zhou said.
The series will cost approximately $30,000, but the group raised money to supplement what it received from Congress.
Congress allocated about $32,600 to student groups during Tuesday’s meeting. This sum amounts to 43.5 percent of Congress’ spring semester budget.
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