In a meeting on Aug. 25, the USG Senate passed two amendments to its constitution. The first is an update to the office of the Executive Vice President, while the second deals with the Student Activity Fund (SAF), attempting to increase student body participation and make future changes more flexible.
The first amendment codified a role that the Vice President has taken on in practice. Designated as the amendment to remove the Executive Vice President as Event Management Committee Chair, it will change the role of Vice President, removing him as Event Management Committee chair. In practice, the Executive Council (EC) has hired a student to chair the events management committee. This amendment passed unanimously and with little discussion.
The next amendment modified the rules around the Student Activity Fee. The name was changed from “Undergraduate Student Activity Fee Referendum” to “Undergraduate Student Activity Fee Amount Referendum.”
In 2004, USG President Shirley Kinney decertified the Student Polity Committee, USG’s predecessor, citing “structural/constitutional problems [upon] Polity’s ability to effectively administer the allocation of the [Student] Activity Fee.”
The Student Activity Fee funds events such as Wolfieland and the Roth Regatta, as well as Stony Brook’s 300-plus clubs. The fee is typically mandatory, though undergraduates can request a fee-waiver on the basis of employment, child-care or commuting.
The current fee of $99.50 has been unchanged since USG was founded in 2003, providing around $2.5 million for clubs and events every year. Inflation and a growing student body could bring a change in this amount for Stony Brook’s 25,000 undergraduates, according to Lobosco.
Originally, 15% of the student body needed to petition to place or remove an SAF proposal from the ballot. The amendment lowered this number to 10% in an effort to make it easier for students to get involved, though students haven’t filed such a petition since USG’s founding, according to Executive Vice President Devin Lobosco.
This amendment will be voted on by the undergraduate student body during the general election in the spring. If approved, the student body election for an amount change in the SAF now has to be held within 60 days after a proposal is approved by the Senate and EC. Any USG member can put forth a proposal, though it must be in accordance with SUNY’s chancellor’s guidelines and approved by a two-thirds majority of the senate as well as the EC.
Senator Sasha Kiniova, a junior chemistry and philosophy major, commented on this development. “Pretty much, the whole idea is that once a proposal is given, the election has to be conducted within 60 days, not way later. If [students] see a change in their activity fee, they’d want to know exactly how it changed earlier than the general election,” Kiniova said.
An emergency provision for canceling the SAF for the academic year was also added, influenced by the campus shutdown during the COVID pandemic when the reduced fee went almost entirely unused.
“I agree with this amendment,” USG Senator and senior psychology major Iqra Ishrat said. “It generally makes the Student Activity Fee more suited for students’ needs and ensures a plan so money does not go to waste.”