Nearly three months have passed since Student Government Association (SGA) discovered it over-allocated funds by $28,019.33 this year, and student leaders remain unclear about how they plan to correct the issue.
The deficit occurred when the 2017-18 SGA Finance Committee over-projected incoming revenue for the following fiscal year by overestimating the number of students who would enroll at Emory, according to SGA VP of Finance Katherine Huang (18Ox, 20B) and former VP of Finance Paul Park (17Ox, 19B). No one realized the revenue projections mismatched actual revenues until late into the Fall 2018 semester.
Park, who SGA President Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19C) fired on Jan. 11, said 2017-18 VP of Finance Javi Reyes (18B) disregarded Student Governance Services (SGS) Associate Director VonYetta Hunter’s estimate for 2018-19 undergraduate student enrollment. Instead, Reyes used a student enrollment projection that was not supported by past trends, Park said.
“[Hunter] said historically, the student population rises about two to one percent each year,” Park said. “[Reyes] pulled [percent growth] numbers that even [Hunter] didn’t understand.”
Reyes declined to comment and referred the Wheel to Park. Hunter also declined to comment.
Ma criticized Park for making plans to solve the deficit without informing others.
“Every time I asked [Park] how much I have and how much money I’ve spent, he could never give me a clear answer,” Ma said. “The way [Park] approached this … is unclear, not transparent and unprofessional.”
Huang, the current VP of finance, said Park should have “taken extra steps” to examine SGA finances with SGS when the issue was discovered but reiterated that the actual deficit “had nothing to do with [Park].”
Leaders Seek 83.5 Percent Cut to Media Council
At a Nov. 7 Finance Committee meeting, Park proposed a plan to pay back the deficit by requesting that most divisional councils and executive agencies (EAs) cut their 2019-20 budgets proportionally to the amount of SAF they each receive. However, Park singled out Media Council, an EA that charters some student publications at Emory, and proposed additional cuts to the council’s budget.
Media Council President Alex Zhang (19C) announced on Jan. 15 a $45,418.30, or 83.5 percent, cut from Media Council’s budget, including a 90 percent cut to printing funds. The cuts were “kind of forced down upon Media Council,” Zhang told the Wheel. However, in a meeting between individual Media Council clubs and SGA representatives, clubs voiced concerns about cuts to their printing funds, which often make up the majority of club spending.
“For a lot of these clubs that have an allocated printing budget, taking away their printing completely decimates the club,” General Manager of WMRE Austyn Wohlers (19C) said during the meeting. “Their main and really only function is to produce printed material.
Park said he and Finance Committee members Mo Singhal (22C) and Linda Zhang (17Ox, 20B) agreed to cut more than the $28,019.33 needed to cover the overallocation because they felt Media Council had been fiscally irresponsible. Park told the Wheel that he would have wanted to give that surplus to groups such as College Council and Student Programming Council (SPC), both of which have experienced financial struggles in recent years.
“If there isn’t a change in the SAF … College Council will no longer have any money in their savings account within a year and a half,” Park said. “[In the 2020-21 academic year] SPC’s gonna substantially have to cut their programming because they don’t have enough money. Right now they’re floating because of a [contract] with Campus Life and SPC.”
Huang and Ma, however, have taken a different philosophy on resolving the overallocation. Although they have not yet announced a concrete plan, Huang and Ma agreed that any solution would only involve cuts to EA budgets and not divisional councils. Park’s previous proposal will be abandoned, according to Ma.
“We are not cutting divisional council budgets for sure,” Ma said. “In terms of the executive agencies, we have to reexamine the numbers … we will not take action for now.”
Student Leaders Kept ‘Out of the Loop’
Park said he did not inform SGA legislators or the general student body after the Nov. 7 Finance Committee meeting because “there [was] nothing we could do for this [fiscal] year.”
CC Vice President of Finance Teresa Wang (20B) and BBA Council VP of Finance Ashley Daniels (19B) confirmed that Park announced the overspending at a Nov. 7 SGA Finance Committee meeting. The meeting was not open to the public. Wang said that although the Finance Committee informed her and CC Vice President of Budget Hithardhi Duggireddy (20C), neither Wang nor Duggireddy briefed the full CC executive board, CC legislators, or any CC clubs.
“From our standpoint, this is not public information so we’re trying to keep it [within] a smaller group,” Wang said. “Also for some exec members they’re not particularly involved and won’t be affected so we don’t see the necessity to tell them right away before we make a plan.”
Update (2/2/19 at 7 p.m.): The article previously said Zhang agreed to the Media Council cuts, but Zhang later told the Wheel he would not characterize it as such and that the cuts were imposed upon Media Council.