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In “State of Student Government” speech, SG president urges senate to increase budget transparency

Valentina Fernández on SG: “Personal interest still triumphs over teamwork and collaboration”

In “State of Student Government” speech, SG president urges senate to increase budget transparency

Members of the SG Senate gather for their first meeting of the year on Jan. 20, 2019. 

During a “State of Student Government” speech at the first Senate meeting of the year Sunday, SG president Valentina Fernández addressed how SG can listen more to student voices and gain trust among the student body. 

Fernández recommended increased budget transparency in the wake of a failed referendum to raise the student activity fee last semester and cheered the progress championed by Women’s Initiative in recent months despite a smaller budget. Additionally, she asked SG to consider increasing oversight of its various departments, such as the Kennedy Political Union and Founder’s Day Ball, to avoid unnecessary expenditures. 

Fernández said that it was important to consider the outcry from students during the referendum period about the allocation of  $130,000 currently slated for the annual Founder’s Week festivities. 

“As a whole, I think we’re doing just O.K.,” she said. “Overall, we haven’t really done anything groundbreaking. Internally … personal interest still triumphs over teamwork and collaboration.”  

Fernández railed against what she saw as a willingness within SG to continue with “mediocrity.” 

“People are consistently working against each other,” she said, encouraging senators to team up to address issues on campus.

Sophomore Joyce DeCerce spoke on this problem before the speech began, offering public comment to SG and recommending that the body implement reforms. They likened the failed referendum’s numbers to an SG approval rating, and hoped that the government would place a new emphasis on outreach, conversation and collaboration with the student body.  

“Seventy-four percent of students don’t trust AUSG,” DeCerce said. “How do we know that? Because 74 percent of students voted against giving AUSG more money … in the fall referendum.” 

During the meeting, Speaker Trevor Pugh announced that two senators -- senior Thomas Kenna and freshman Tyler Massias -- submitted their resignations over winter break. 

Kenna was at the center of a controversy last fall when he asked SG members to report a Facebook post made by The Eagle that linked to a staff editorial about the student activity fee referendum. He cited a variety of other responsibilities and a significant workload as the reasons for his resignation, Pugh said.  

Fernández covered her campaign goals and promises, reporting progress on collaboration with transgender students to set up a university-backed way to change their name, the initiative to study feedback from AUx, and hiring more diverse employees in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. 

Some of her initiatives, such as working with AU police to formalize grievance policies and hiring a first-generation student advisor for the Office of Merit Awards, remain unfinished, she said. 

Her hope is that her successor, who will be elected in March, will commit to completing the projects, Fernández said. 

Other initiatives. such as improving internal diversity and implementing inclusion training for SG, will start in the next few months, while other priorities such as assisting with the search for a new provost and increasing the number of students registered to vote have already been completed. 

One of Fernández’s current goals is creating a student leadership fund to support club leaders. The plan is still in the works, but she said her cabinet is in talks with Student Activities to make the fund a reality. Devontae Torriente, who served as SG president from 2016-2017, proposed and received funding for a similar program in 2017. 

As she stressed the need for better financial transparency, Fernández again questioned the need for the large allocation of student funding to Founder’s Week. 

“I don’t think this tradition is something we should spend this money on,” Fernandez said. 

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Tyler Massias resigned from the senate. 

dpapscun@theeagleonline.com 


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