Once again, the student senate meeting was adjourned in the midst of shouting and general confusion.
The top item on the senate’s agenda Wednesday afternoon was to address and vote to approve the Student Fee Committee (SFC) budget for 2003-04.
However, with the recent approval of the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) referendum by a student vote, both the senate and the SFC are unclear as to whether or not the referendum should be included in the budget.
The SFC presented their budget to the senate on March 12, however the senate was not able to vote on it until this last Wednesday.
The senate must approve the budget and pass it on to University President Daniel Bernstine for his approval by April 18.
Bernstine must approve the budget and then pass it onto the state by another deadline, possibly as soon as May 1.
If Bernstine does not approve the budget, he will return it to the SFC with a list of recommendations. It is up to the SFC to then accept or reject them.
According to SFC Chair Tracy Earll, if the SFC and Bernstine cannot come to an agreement, they will be forced to go through a hearing process.
Some senators expressed concerns that such a process might keep Portland State from sending its budget to the state by the deadline, in which case all of the universities’ student fees and student fee-funded groups could be lost.
Some senators had small apprehensions about various aspects of the SFC budget, including money allocated to athletics and the general publications board. However, it was clear that the biggest concern revolved around the OSPIRG referendum.
Sen. Jesse Shapiro said he would not vote on the SFC budget because it did not include the OSPIRG referendum, which the students voted to support.
He recommended the SFC take this back into consideration and present a revised budget to the senate. Other senators shared Shapiro’s sentiments.
Sen. Shariyar Smith disagreed, stating that the senate should add the referendum after they had approved the budget. He also stressed the imperative need for the budget to be accepted and moved along in the approval process.
“If we don’t pass this budget,” Smith said, “no one gets any money.”
The senate then tried to pass a motion to approve the SFC budget as it had been presented to them, with the intention of making a second motion to add a recommendation regarding the OSPIRG referendum. However, the motion failed 4 to 5, with four abstentions.
Another motion was made, in this case to approve the SFC budget, with the attached results of the OSPIRG initiative.
There was still a fair amount of dissention between senators. Smith still felt the pressing need to approve the budget by the approaching deadline.
Sen. David Jimenez did not feel that the senate had a choice in the matter.
“We’re obligated to include the initiative, even if we know Bernstine will not approve it,” he said, adding that their obligation stemmed from the fact that the student body had approved the referendum when they voted in the recent ASPSU elections, held March 12 – 14.
The senate was about to vote whether or not to approve the budget with the attached OSPIRG initiative, when Smith left, breaking quorum.
Despite the fact Smith had previously announced he would be leaving at the time he did, shouts of “asshole” were heard from various senators.
Shapiro also shouted, “This is fucked up!” He was later asked by Sen. Nathan Pawlicki not to use such language in senate meetings.
The senate will not have a chance to vote on the SFC budget until their meeting next week.
Many senators are feeling nervous about the budget, however, and are concerned that all of the student fee funding will be lost if actions are not taken soon.
Sen. Justice McPherson said, “Right about now I would sign off on a dirty limerick if I thought it would get the budget off President Bernstine’s desk with a signature.”
McPherson feels a large part of their problem is due to the fact that the senate is not agreeing with the administration.
“Its frustrating because the vote and the action of student government,” he said, “has come into direct conflict with the laws of the university.”
The SFC will not be making any changes to the budget they have presented to the senate and will continue with normal business this week.