Bierman addresses finances at SGA

Kayla Trail

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 Western Illinois University’s Student Government Association (SGA) met for the final time this semester last night to discuss the past semester, as well as how Western will approach the fall 2016 semester without a budget, as well as addressing an old SGA Bylaw amendment and a new Council on Student Activities Fund (CSAF) Bill of Appropriation. 

 Guest speakers, President Jack Thomas and Budget Director and Interim Vice President of Administrative Services, Matt Bierman helped explain what students and faculty can expect going into the
fall semester.

 On April 22, the Illinois House and Senate passed SB 2059, which gave some funding to public colleges and universities in the state of Illinois. Bierman said that as appreciative as they are with this, the school is still short on funds.

 “When you hear from other students, ‘Why aren’t they cancelling the layoffs? They got some money.’ We did, and we’re very appreciative of the legislature who came together and everybody who as advocating for us but we’re not quite there yet to be able to pull all those back but we will readdress that as we get additional funding in the future,” Bierman said.

 Bierman explained the mathematical approach to the funds Western received from the SB 2059 bill.

 “I want you to understand the context,” Bierman said. “In a normal year, let’s take FY 2015 for example. We received $51.4 million from the state in our appropriation and about $11 million in map funding, that’s $62 million. This year to date, we’ve received $21 million so it’s about a third of our overall of what we would’ve expected. And frankly, the level of what we spend at, it’s a little less than that. We’re still short about $40 million. So those cuts that we’ve made, those difficult decisions that we have had to make, they’ll continue on through the summer and we’ll begin to reevaluate what FY17 looks like for this campus, our staffing levels and all those kind of difficult decisions.”

 Although the University has been faced with layoffs and reductions, Thomas said that that will not affect the “quality of the education” students would receive.

 “Yes, we had to make some reductions,” Thomas said. “We had some furloughs of some groups on our campus but not all of them. We have had to make some layoffs and we have had to make some tough decisions. I know that there are some that are concerned; there are some that protested about classes and those kinds of things. You’ll be able to get those classes that you need here for your major and you will continue to receive a quality and well rounded education at this institution.”

 Thomas also applauds the city of Macomb as this budget issue has not only shown how strong Western is but how strong the city of Macomb is in supporting the university.

 “These are times to come together,” Thomas said. “I think in terms of the community, it’s brought us closer and we know that the community supports this university and as students, you have to give yourself a round of applause.”

 With the state of Illinois on it’s eleventh month without a state budget, Thomas reassured students that he will not stop until the state passes an appropriated budget.

“Anything is better than nothing,” Thomas said. “We want you to know that we’re not going to stop at that point where we are. There’s still much work to be done and yes, there are still other tough decisions that have to be made and we will keep you informed when we have to make those decisions. We’re going to be rolling out a new plan for our University, and it means that we are cutting in some areas but at the same time we’re investing in other areas. Those areas that have potential growth or where we see growth, that’s where we’ll be putting the funding. We have a great Board of Trustees that stand behind us, who encourage us to move forward and to reshape this institution. We will be coming forward with the plan fairly soon, we just want you to know that.”

Bierman signed off by encouraging the graduating seniors this semester to take a photo of themselves in their graduation gowns next weekend and send it to their legislature.

“I want you to tell them that you graduated from Western Illinois University, which is a public institution and you require public support from the legislature,” Bierman said. “We’re down there telling our bad stories of ‘I need funding otherwise I’m going to have to quit school,’ I want them to also hear the success because of the investment that the state has made. You’re now a tax paying citizen who has a degree from an Illinois institution and they need to hear that story as well.”

In other SGA news, after members had an intense discussion on the old business, the SGA Bylaws Amendment 2015-2016.004 passed with a 13-3-3 vote.

The amendment, authored by College of Education and Human Services Senator, Lukas Urbane and Unity Senator, Natasha Kelch states that, “in the event the President resign or is removed from office, the Vice President then becomes President and fulfills the full constitutional duties of the President as delineated in this document. The line of succession for the President is as follow: Vice President, Speaker of the Senate, and the five Senators At-Large, beginning with the Senator At-Large that obtained the highest number of votes in the most recent election. Selection of the new Vice President shall adhere to the appointment process delineated in this document, with the exception that confirmation of the Senate requires a three-fourths majority.”

“Sometimes we cannot see the future,” Urbane said. “With this, this clarifies what would happen, what would happen if both the president and vice president (left) who then would be in charge. So this kind of is just putting that framework out there so then the Senate’s not arguing back and forth about who should then become president. The reasoning behind why we chose the Speaker of the Senate and the Senators At-Large is so then the president cannot directly pick their successors and allowing a more fair way in the event of a crisis is to occur where both the president and vice president have resigned.”

Kelch said that they also chose the Senators At-Large because they are voted on and picked directly by the students.

Student Tenant Union Senator John Kennealy suggested changing part of the amendment as well as striking out the part that would then be handed to the Senator At-Large’s.

“I would like to move to amend that the back clause where it says the line of succession for the President is as follows,” Kennealy said. “I would like to keep Vice President, Speaker of the Senate and I would like amend it to say Attorney General and the remainder of Cabinet.”

Speaker of the Senate, Jacob Tomlinson then asked Urbane if he accepted that where Urbane then said he did not accept.

“This is not an obstacle, it’s to make sure that the best qualified candidate is there for the job,” Urbane said. “It’s a way to ensure so the best qualified person is getting that position.”

Urbane then requested five-minute recess, which was granted by Tomlinson. After SGA adjourned, Urbane made a motion to pull the bill from the floor, which opened the floor to another debate. By a 13-3-3 vote, the amendment passed.

The new business that passed unanimously “is to recommend the allocation of student activity funds to recognized student organizations of Western Illinois University.”

Student Member of the Board of Trustees, Michael Quigley is graduating this semester and signed off with a piece of advice for the SGA members who will be returning next semester.

Next year, here’s to hoping that we have a little bit of money,” Quigley said. “If the budget situation is better, do not just accept that, make sure that you press for positive change for the students. Next year, hopefully we get money so that this organization instead of worrying about if we’ll get money, this organization can worry about really making the lives of the students better.