The WPI Social Committee recently requested special funding from the Student Government Association to purchase new video equipment for the SocComm Movie Channel. The special funding was discussed at last Tuesday's SGA meeting. The request was first approved, then reconsidered, leaving SocComm members confused about the fate of the movie channel.
The initial request from SocComm was $7000, to cover the cost of five new VCRs and a controller. The original VCRs which the SocComm Movie Channel currently uses were donated by the Instructional Media Center. The equipment is "beyond repair," and in order for the channel to operate properly, new equipment must be purchased. SocComm had not considered purchasing new VCRs when it devised its budget for the 1997 fiscal year.
SGA currently maintains a reserve of $13,579.03, which will be added to when the social fee and tuition moneys from this year's students comes in. SGA has the power to distribute this reserve money as it sees fit when organizations come to the Association with special funding requests.
Early in the SGA meeting, the request was brought down to $3500, and only four VCRs would be purchased instead of five. This price considered four VCRs at $500 a piece, each with a controller of $120, and shipping fees. Any request over $5000 is considered a capital request, and requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate in order for the request to be approved.
The Class III Organizational Class Finance Committee (OCFC) approved SocComm's request. Special funding requests must first pass through the OCFC before they come up for consideration at an SGA meeting. The Class III OCFC handles the finances of all Class III organizations, which are program-providing organizations (other Class III organizations include Masque, Peddler, Newspeak, WPIR, Bacchus, and others). The Appropriations Committee of SGA voted 3-1 against the motion.
SocComm claims that the price of the equipment cannot come from their $103,517 budget. Some members of SGA felt that it would be possible to do so, referring to the fact that at the end of the last fiscal year, SocComm had six to seven thousand dollars left in its budget. SocComm president Kim Belli stated that the cost of these VCRs would be equal to three Sunday night movies, or a Coffeehouse show, or a Pub show.
Senator Greg Snow suggested that SocComm's request is less than 2% of their entire budget, which is equivalent, he said, to $25 of a $1000 budget.
Senator Jennifer M. Johnson noted that off campus students are unable to watch the movie channel. She suggested that SocComm take the necessary money from their current budget and request special funding when they need it to do more shows, which would be more campus-wide. Belli replied that it would be hard to request special funding for an undetermined act, since SocComm would need the money before it could sign any contracts.
Sensing that the Senate's vote towards this motion would be unfavorable, Senator Ben Petro stated, "I think to take this away from future classes is selfish of us" - with the exception of the current senior class and transfer students, everyone gets to see the movie channel for at least one year.
Senator Justin Sprague noted that SocComm has a line item for repairs, which was initially set at $4100, and eleven to twelve thousand dollars in other categories not specific to a committee. SocComm said that some of the $4100 had already been spent on needed repairs to other equipment, such as damages microphones and the projectors in Perreault Hall, and would not be sufficient to cover the price of the new equipment. The other money is for operational expenses.
Petro stated that SGA's noncommitment to supply SocComm with the money they need to operate the movie channel seemed to go against SGA public relations; he said that if the motion were not passed, the general feeling around campus would be "SGA is more concerned about legislation and paperwork than the students."
The question was called, and a roll call vote was taken. The final result was nine ayes, five nays, and six abstentions. The motion carried. At this point, SGA president Matthew Friemuth suggested that the many visitors who attended the meeting to support the move channel may leave.
Senator Seth Kintigh said that the $4100 in SocComm's repair line could be used; this is not an emergency, he stated. Senator Jon Chaillet stated that it was not a good idea to pass the funding request motion and then reconsider it after the supporters had left. Senator Jennifer Reese said that SGA can't just give money to everyone, and there must be some control over the budget. Senator Johnson noted that further discussion at this meeting would do any good. Senator Sprague moved to table the motion until next week.