Over 50 students crowded into a small conference room on the third floor of the SAC on March 28 to protest the removal of the act allowing sports clubs to apply for a grant to cover the costs of participating in national tournaments.
Undergraduate Student Government Treasurer Thomas Kirnbauer brought the matter before the Legislative Review Committee because the National Tournament Grant Act, as it is called, violates the USG constitution, he said. Under the constitution, USG may not make any law or policy that creates separate criteria for certain clubs to receive funding. The act in question allows sports clubs eligible to compete in national tournaments to receive grants that would cover the costs of attending.
Students from a number of clubs, including men’s rugby, women’s soccer, the pre-law society, the mock trial club and the crew club said they fear that if the act is removed, they would be deprived of the opportunity to compete at the highest level.
“Don’t let all of us work for nothing,” Kyle Geoghan, former president of the men’s rugby team, said during the meeting. The team has competed in three national tournaments already this year, and members say it would have been impossible to afford without the grants.
The students also argued that allowing teams to travel to national tournaments puts Stony Brook’s name out there, and brings the school recognition.
The committee ultimately decided to table the legislation, formally called Revision #4 to the Financial Bylaws Act, until it could be discussed further and USG could come up with a solution that also pleased students. On Thursday, March 29, the USG Senate approved a resolution to create a temporary committee, facilitated by Executive Vice President Deborah Machalow, to examine the necessary changes and propose amendments to existing procedures, according to the USG website. The committee will meet with concerned students and report back to the Senate during its April 19 meeting.
Though the revision, if passed by both the Legislative Review Committee and the Senate, and signed by USG President Mark Maloof, would have taken effect at the conclusion of this semester, students said they fear it would take USG too long to reinstate a reworded national tournament grant act that fell within the guidelines of the constitution, and they would be barred from participating in those tournaments next semester.
Earlier this semester, the roller hockey club was forced to pull its bid to a tournament in Salt Lake City because the Senate failed to pass legislation in time to allow the club to use its funding for flights. Under the current USG Financial Bylaws, clubs may only use their budgets for ground transportation. The club members couldn’t afford to pay for the flights out of pocket.
“Based on precedent, there’s not much faith that we can have,” CJ Kottuppallil, a member of the men’s rugby team, said.
USG Vice President of Communications Stephanie Berlin said she wanted students to know that USG is willing to hear student concerns. She said she spends plenty of time in her office, but students rarely come to talk with her.
“It’s heartbreaking to see a club not be able to do something because of the way legislation is written,” Berlin said.
The students protesting said they would rather see the act amended to allow all clubs to be eligible for national grants, rather than just sports clubs. But Senator David Adams, who sits on the Legislative Review Committee, said during the meeting that the small amount of money available for the grants would be depleted before sports teams made it far enough in the season to even qualify for national tournaments.
“I’m leaning towards wanting to keep more money on campus,” Adams said. “I don’t want USG to be a travel agency. I want us to be fostering things on campus—whether it be a nice pick-up game of rugby out on the fields or some folks in the basement discussing Sartre.
Whatever you want to do, we should be funding that to an appropriate level and it should be really building events and activities on campus.”
He said that somewhere between 30 to 40 percent of USG’s budget goes to competitive clubs. “Our job is to have activities on this campus for students to enjoy, and to spend our money on something only a few students can enjoy…that’s what I have a problem with,” he said.
However, he added that the National Tournaments Grant Act is unconstitutional, and it his therefore his responsibility as an elected official—and the responsibility of USG—to repeal it, regardless of his opinion on the law.