Senate Mandates Greater SFC Disclosure
The Student Finance Committee has come under fire recently for alledgedly opaque financial practices. To remedy this, Student Senate passed legislation this week that aims to reduce what some senators perceive as a lack of accountability in the budget allocation process. The reforms come in the wake of rising tensions between Oberlin’s Senate and SFC.
Despite the concerns of some senators over the efficacy of the measures, Senate passed the resolution Sunday. It includes provisions that will require SFC to publish most of the documents received or produced by the committee, including all allocations made. A final tally of SFC’s allocations must now also be presented to students at the end of each academic year. While the resolution calls for SFC to publish this information either in electronic or written form, senators expressed a preference in the meeting and in interviews afterwards that SFC post the information on its website.
Presently, SFC does not post budgets on its website, and while it does list allocations, the list is not up-to-date.
Senator and College sophomore Ben Klebanoff, the resolution’s author, said that the lack of readily accessible information about SFC’s activities was the impetus for his resolution.
“They’re really an organization that has been operating in the dark, and that’s unacceptable,” Klebanoff said. “SFC is an organization that has to be held accountable to the student body.”
Many of the senators, who passed the resolution with zero opposition votes and three abstentions, indicated to the Review that they wonder if the new mandates will be possible to implement without further Senate action.
Senator and College sophomore Leah Pine, who abstained from the Sunday vote, told the Review in an e-mail that she believed the resolution’s intentions were sound, but that she was unsure if it would accomplish its goal.
“While I think that what Ben’s resolution is trying to do is absolutely necessary, I do not think it is the best way to accomplish the goals it sets out for itself,” Pine said. “I think that it might be the only thing to get the job done right now, but in the long run, I think that there are much larger reforms that need to be made to SFC in order to make it run correctly.”
Pine gave examples of such reforms: “They need more staff, and some kind of compensation for their immense workload.”
Senator and College junior Dave Casserly expressed similar sentiments about the resolution: “I think it’s a start. The problems with SFC aren’t something we can fix by writing a resolution once.”
Casserly also expressed doubts about whether SFC will implement the resolution.
“I don’t expect them to do it,” he said, citing the additional work that the mandates require and poor relations between the SFC and Senate.
Currently, SFC members perform their jobs on a volunteer basis, and are supported by a Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer and office manager who are all paid.
SFC Assistant Treasurer Chisara Nwabara, a College junior, said that she believed that the SFC already met many of the mandates laid out in the senate’s resolution.
“Everything in this office is open to anyone,” Nwabara said, explaining that all SFC records can be examined by students during office hours.
Klebanoff and other senators interviewed for this article said that this resolution is likely to be the beginning, not the end of reforms to SFC considered this semester.
Senator, SFC Co-Chair and College junior Colin Jones emphasized the importance of mutual cooperation as Senate and SFC move forward to fix the perceived problems with the committee.
“I feel like we need to understand each other better than we do now,” Jones said. “Mutual understanding and trust is not there."