To my Queens College colleagues and friends, there are some things you should know before you vote for your 2017-18 student government: who’s running and where is your $6.00 semester fee going?
Let’s find out.
SFC, or Students For Change has been in power for 6 years. They’ve hosted hundreds of events, brought people like Trevor Noah, We the Kings, Jay Sean to campus, along with CUNY tuition freeze, and infrastructure upgrades. Here’s their platform:
SEP, or Students’ Empowerment Party is a new party whose goal is to empower students to be more involved in student life and in making the decisions of how student government money is spent. They hope to implement Participatory Budgeting for the majority of their budget. They also want to make voting season an enjoyable one where students aren’t harassed for votes. One of their current goals is to make CUNY free again. Here’s their platform:
I am now a senior at Queens College, and for the past couple of years, as more friends of mine have gotten involved in greek life, student government, and clubs, I have been hearing lots of rumors about the Student Association management of money. Particularly, about what the Student’s for Change party has been doing for the past 6 years. The rumors I have heard include purchasing of items solely for SFC officials, voter fraud, and blatant lying on slogan and mission. I’ve had friends who are part of this party, and those who have even been president, so of course I didn’t want to believe any of them. But I’m not one to let injustice get by, simply because someone is my friend. Some of the rumors I have heard can be substantiated, others not so much. Here’s what I do know:
The budget is supposed to be on public record, but it’s nowhere online. You have to go to QC Vines in the Student Union building and hope that someone will be in the office so that you can request a copy of the budget. I had to go to the office more than just a few times in hopes that someone would be there so that I could get the budget. I went between the hours of 9 and 5. When you request a copy of the budget(s), you are at first given a summary. I had to ask for a more detailed budget, though I made clear that I was there for the detailed budget. When I persisted in asking for a detailed budget, the person working at the desk seemed to get visibly nervous, looking down, and explaining that it was in fact my right to request the budget. This I obviously knew, as I was sitting there, requesting it. I wasn’t sure what to expect when going into the office, but the interaction between the two of us gave me the idea that there was something that SA wanted to hide. Once I received the budget, I still had many questions. I will be making this year’s budget in the upcoming days, I hope to get a more updated copy within this time. I will upload this myself, for all students to see themselves, since Queens College Student Association and the party of SFC has not done so.
Let’s start with lies: last year, SFC’s officials promised to dedicate $5,000 to participatory budgeting, which is when all students around the campus are invited to participate in a meeting, a series of meetings, or a vote where they get to decide where that money goes. According to founding members of participatory budgeting, the former president Chris Labial promised to allocate $5,000. They did not receive the money by the end of his term, and were told they would be receiving it the following year. According to one of the Participatory Budgeting initiators at QC, when the new president Japneet Singh came in, he chose not to give $5,000 because it was not “his” administration to allocate the $5,000. Chris promised the $5,000 but it wasn’t in writing. The participatory budgeting team has not received any money as of yet. So where are the lies? Jap is running on a platform claiming on his SFC fliers that he initiated participatory budgeting, when he in fact did not. Not only did he not initiate it, but he didn’t allow its members to do their jobs by not allocating any money to it.
Under the Facebook “Vote for SFC” event you can find their misrepresentation of Participatory Budgeting, at the bottom of this list (https://www.facebook.com/events/1896740930584366/):
Now what’s going on with the overall budget? Here’s a pie chart created to illustrate this year’s budget:
Now as you can see, 68% goes to services that are unexplained. The budget is very vague. For example, in 2015-2016, parts of the budget are so elusive that they are left as “journal entry.” WHERE IS THAT MONEY GOING PEOPLE. It is unclear whether this is bad bookkeeping or purposeful “loss” of information to hide something going on. Either way, changes need to be made.
Stipends make up almost $10,000 of the budget. All of this money is dedicated to SFC officials. As far as I can tell from looking at the budget, officials decide their pay and there doesn’t seem to be much of a limit. Technically, SA members are given a stipend, but as far as the budget shows, they get to decide how much. There are no public records of current members of SA, decided pay, position held, and how long they have been involved. From this years budget, the only person’s stipend that is the clearest is President Jap’s. He pays himself $410 per month. Last year’s President, Chris Labial, paid himself $375 per month. So why this increase in pay? Who decides this change, the students or staff working for the Student Association?
This is not to denounce the positives that SFC has done for our college. Queens has benefited from the work that SFC has done. However, just because there have been positives, doesn’t mean that everything is working perfectly. Along with that, there are many questions that need to be answered by SA and potentially the administration of Queens College.
I will be reaching out to both parties to hear how they will address the issues above and will keep you all updated with their responses.