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ASG use of student fees in question

In a time of budget constrictions, every penny of spending is under review — and concerns about the UNC-sytem Association of Student Governments’ effective use of student fees have been pushed into the spotlight yet again.

Some UNC student leaders are calling into question ASG’s efficiency and are proposing a resolution aimed at killing the University’s participation in the association.

The association is composed of delegates from all 17 system institutions and is funded by a $1 annual student fee, which brings its yearly budget total to more than $220,000.

The student fee pays for the officers’ annual stipends, which range from $500 to $5,500.

Marc Seelinger, a member of Student Congress, plans to sponsor a resolution that will allow students to vote in the spring on whether they want UNC to be a member of the association.

“I feel like it’s very important, since students pay for this organization, that they have a voice in whether or not they want to be a part of it,” he said.

If students vote to not participate in the association, Seelinger will bring the resolution to the UNC-system Board of Governors for its approval.

“We’re still looking into the different aspects of this and talking to everyone involved so that no one is surprised or caught off guard by this,” he wrote in an email.

Seelinger’s proposal is not new.

The UNC College Republicans pushed for a vote last year to allow students to vote on whether the University should participate in the organization, but it never materialized. Chairman Greg Steele said he remains critical of the association’s effectiveness.

“They take our money and whether it’s a dollar or a penny, it’s out of principle,” he said. “They have large stipends, and they don’t do a great job of representing the student body.”

The association’s president, Atul Bhula, issued an executive order Oct. 31 that created a task force charged with examining the organization’s inner structure and effectiveness.

Bhula wrote in an email that the task force’s recommendations should be completed by February or March, and he hopes to have a conference call with the members of the task force later this week.

UNC’s student body president, Mary Cooper ­— the chairwoman of the task force — expressed concerns at the association’s monthly meeting Saturday about ASG not reaching its potential.

“In a lot of these (tuition) forums I’ve had, a lot of questions have come up about ASG,” she said at the meeting. “I want to make sure that after every meeting, we can go back to students and say ‘this is what we did for you.’”

While Bhula aims to review and improve the association’s inner structure, Seelinger said he sees the creation of the task force as an admission of problems the association has no real intentions to fix.

“I appreciate the thought, but I have a lot of doubts about if a task force will be able to accomplish anything,” he said. “The organization has remained pretty resilient to change and even criticism in the past.”

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