By Emily Shane
Special to The Denisonian
The DCGA Finance Committee is coming closer to deciding between proposals to spend $500,000 from the reserve fund -money that collects over time when the student government does not spend all of its million-dollar budget. The process started last fall when DCGA sent out a call for proposals for campus projects from members of the Denison community.
Josh Goldman ‘14 of Blue Ash, Ohio, said, “I’m glad that all the proposals were published online, but I worry that even despite the best efforts of senators involved, only a small percentage of the campus was aware of the opportunity and the process.”
“Seeing how [the process] was new, we did make some mistakes,” said Finance Chair Kiara Sims ‘14 of Chicago, Ill. The finance committee received 37 proposals and invited the writers of each to attend the discussions. Senator Steven Hix ‘16 of Dayton, Ohio, said that each proposal was discussed and reviewed for less than half an hour over the past few months.
He says that “some of the proposals lacked content and thought,” adding, “As the finance committee, it wasn’t our responsibility to put additional time and effort” into those proposals.
Some writers of thorough proposals felt that their proposals were not sufficiently considered. Sam Phillips ’14, of Medina, Ohio, who co-wrote a 16-page proposal aimed at making Denison more handicap accessible, felt that “the general tone was kind of a ‘let’s get through this, we have 40 proposals, yours is ridiculously long,’” which she understood because of the large number of proposals.
In addition, Alana Perez ‘16, who submitted a proposal for a leadership library in Slayter, said that after putting in a lot of time and effort, she wasn’t sure that they “actually read the proposal.”
Perez is not alone. “They pulled up the document on the projector, but nobody was given time to actually read it,” said Phillips. Based on the discussion, she felt that Sims had read her proposal, but she didn’t think anyone else read it.
Senator Erin Katalinic ‘16 of Columbus, Ohio said that the committee “can get a little unprofessional.”
Senator Ashley Bartreau ‘16 of Lake Orion, Mich., explained, “We try to make it an open environment where people feel comfortable. Maybe that’s something that people are interpreting as a lack of professionalism, but it’s just creating a comfortable environment.” Hix said that the committee was not used to having an audience and it’s a “very casual environment in order to keep ideas rolling, keep things loose.”
A common refrain from students was that they felt like they were being personally attacked and criticized. “Though I respect the hard work done by the committee members in making tough choices, it was tough for me to see the disrespect with which the proposals were treated. I was often concerned that students coming to defend their proposals were not greeted as equals,” said Goldman, who wrote four proposals.
Goldman added, “I worry that sometimes intense questioning transitioned into rude or condescending questioning.”
Senator Sarah Dixon ‘17 of Springfield, Ohio, understood the complaints, saying, “It’s an intense process, and I think that some of the Senate can be very passionate and that can come across as harsh.”
“The concerns are completely valid. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” said Sims. However, she said, “My committee members did express that they felt disrespect. There was disrespect on both sides, from what I was told from both parties.”
During the final meeting of voting on the proposals, the committee approved the $300,000 social spaces proposal, which pushed the total amount over the $500,000 spending goal. In order to stay under the limit, some committee members felt that they should review the proposals that they already decided to show to DCGA, and cut money from them.
When reallocating money from proposals they already approved, Bartreau advocated for a closed vote. She said, “for the actual [committee] vote, [she] would really feel more comfortable” if the representatives from each proposal were not present.
But Sims says she had “not entertained a closed vote” but would consider it in dialogue if the Finance Committee were to undertake another project of this magnitude.
The proposals that passed and will be voted on by DCGA tonight include a meeting space for La Fuerza Latina, a Roost renovation, a social spaces renovation, an externship travel endowment fund and an event schedule/monitors in Slayter. DCGA meets on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the basement of Burton Morgan.