Understanding student government is always important (they are, after all, addressing issues that directly affect you as a student) — but especially now. Because there is a vote this Friday, Nov. 8th, that will gauge student opinion about whether or not UNC-Chapel Hill should stay in ASG. And how can you voice your opinion without first being informed?
Staff Writer Lindsay Carbonell explains what exactly is the Association of Student Governments and why it matters.
The most important thing to understand about this vote is that it will not determine whether or not we leave ASG.
If students vote “yes” to leave ASG, the votes will act as a sort of petition that delegates from UNC Student Congress will bring with them to the Board of Trustees.
It is the Board of Trustees and UNC-system Board of Governors who will ultimately decide if UNC-Chapel Hill will be allowed to leave ASG and cancel the student fee.
The big question that is central to the ASG conflict is:
Is the organization worth the money we’re spending on it?
This question was asked two years ago by that year’s UNC Student Congress. While students voted to stay in ASG, the issue is coming up again this year.
There are many different aspects to consider when addressing the ASG issue.
Should we stay…
Arguments for Staying
- ASG President has a voice on the UNC-system Board of Governors
- The association is beneficial to smaller schools, who otherwise would have a difficult time getting their voices heard.
- Only current forum of communication between UNC-system schools
- Only a $1 annual student fee
- UNC cannot reform ASG from within if not a member
Arguments for Leaving
- Some believe ASG spends too much money — especially on stipends and travel costs
- The hassle of going to meetings that can be far away
- ASG President’s position on the Board of Governors is non-voting
- Structural issues: members are sometimes inconsistent in attendance, representation is 4 members per school which may not be considered equal representation
The Budget: Where’s my dollar going?
One of the chief grievances towards ASG is the budget. With an annual $1 student fee for every single school in the UNC system…the money adds up. Here are some of the numbers to take into consideration.
The total revenue that ASG received this year was $201,255, which is around the same amount as the 2012-2013 budget. The following pie chart was derived from the proposed budget for this term.
Stipends for Officials: Pretty self-explanatory. This is the money that student leaders of ASG get for doing their job. There are 11 ASG officer positions and stipends range from $1,500 a term to $6,500. To put that into perspective, working a minimum wage job in North Carolina for 10 hours a week from July to April would get you about $2,857.60 before taxes.
Professional Staff: ASG currently has one professional position in the organization in the form of an office manager, who has benefits and health insurance.
Office and Operations: According to the budget, this includes parking for the office, telephones, office supplies, equipment and information technology costs like website hosting. You can find ASG’s website here.
Meetings, Lodging and Travel: This is one of the most debated sections of the budget. With the exception of the August meeting, each meeting is appropriated $3,800. This money goes to transportation costs, hotels, and food.
Advocacy and Special Projects: Many opponents to ASG point to this section of the budget and say that although ASG is meant to be an advocacy organization, they only spend 10 percent of the total budget on advocacy.
Administrative: This section of the budget includes categories like “UNC General Administration – Financial Services” and “Emergency Operating Reserve”
This pie chart addresses only the proposed budget for the ASG 2013-2014 year. Here is a snapshot of how that money has been spent so far:
Meetings, Lodging, and Travel budget from August to October:
- For the August meeting at East Carolina University: saved $393.81 from the proposed budget
- For the September meeting at N.C. Central University: spent $1,137.45 more than the proposed budget. When I asked ASG President Robert Nunnery about this discrepancy, he said that he wasn’t sure exactly what happened, but that there had been some sort of mix-up in reserving hotels because they switched venues at the last minute.
- For the October meeting at UNC-CH: saved $2,824.80 (only cost about $975)
ASG has spent a total of $7,218.84 so far.
Other expenses: In general, ASG is spending less than the proposed budget, with the exception of an extra $523.23 on “Non-technology Office Equipment and Furniture. Saved $4,463.20 on Officers’ Travel
Another important note is that because of its size, UNC-Chapel Hill provides about 13.3 percent of the budget. To look at how much the other schools provide, click here.
The Meetings: So 50 college students go into a room to discuss politics…
As a one-time attendee of an ASG meeting, I can’t say much to the structure of ASG meetings except what little I’ve seen and what other delegates have told me in interviews. Common concerns that I’ve heard consistently through my interviews are:
- Travel is a hassle. Meetings take place in any UNC-system school across the state. And while the journey from UNC-Greensboro to UNC-Charlotte isn’t unreasonable, it is quite a trip from UNC-Wilmington to Appalachian State.
- There is a lack of communication between meetings. Often, delegates say they don’t have a lot of information provided to them between meetings, and there is little to no communication between members of different schools except during meetings. Still, this point brings up the question, if UNC leaves ASG, will we stay in touch with other system schools?
While there were many complaints about the October meeting, the November meeting seemed to be a significant improvement from the former. Shelby Hudspeth, the director of state and external affairs for the UNC-CH executive cabinet, said that people were more focused and committees worked together as teams. The student body president of Appalachian State, Dylan Russell, also commented on the improvement in teamwork.
So if one month’s meeting can produce 0 resolutions, while the next punches out 4, what does this say about ASG as a whole? It’s inconsistent? It has potential that need only be tapped into? That decision is up to you.
The President’s Position: A benefit, or negligible?
Here’s the thing about the ASG President’s position. While a guaranteed seat at every Board of Governor’s meeting sounds pretty sweet, this position is a non-voting one. So while the President can talk all he/she wants, none of those words have to be taken into consideration.
On the flip side, the ASG President does have an “in” on BOG meetings — and it is the job of Board of Governor members to advocate for students.
What? A Vote? How Do I Vote?
This Friday, Nov. 8th, all you have to do is go to studentlife.unc.edu and cast your vote! So while you’re voting for the Homecoming King and Queen (or even if you aren’t), go take a second to use your now fully-informed opinion to good use!
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