The Student Government Association (SGA) held its first meeting of the semester yesterday evening, passing bills to fund the Emory Chinese Student Association’s (ECSA) Lunar Banquet and a competition for pre-health students.

The Lunar Banquet is a celebration of the Chinese New Year. ECSA has received funding for the event in the past two years. SGA provided $4,200 for the event this year.

At first, however, SGA’s finance committee recommended that SGA provide only $3,000, explaining that SGA had provided about that amount to the Indian Cultural Exchange (ICE) for their annual Diwali event last semester.

The legislature, however, voted on a motion to amend the bill from $3,000 back to $4,200 after some SGA members, including College senior and SGA President Ashish Gandhi, voiced concerns about comparing one event’s funding to another’s.

ECSA is asking for $200 more than last year due to steeper catering costs, according to bill authors – EASDA President Qilin Liu and Vice President Dong Ba.

SGA Student Life Committee Chair and College senior Calvin Li warned the legislature that ECSA has had financial issues in the past, citing a past incident during which the organization asked SGA for funding only a week before the event.

Legislators responded to these financial concerns, citing what they see as the importance of the event.

“It’s very important for this event to occur because a lot of people like this event,” College sophomore and Governance Committee Chair Ted Guio said.

Liu also defended ECSA, stating that problems in years past had to do with the leadership and not the integrity of the event. College senior and senior representative Mallika Begum also voiced her support of funding the event.

Eventually, SGA voted to fund the entirety of the $4,200 on a 24-0-2 decision.

Annie Harold, a third-year law student, presented the second bill of the evening, which requests funding for a pre-health competition this Saturday hosted by Emory American Student Dental Association (EASDA) and Science and Society. SGA unanimously voted to pass the bill in a 25-0-0 vote.

EASDA is an inter-school chartered organization under the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA).

The competition, which started in 2009, is open for Emory students in all schools interested in public health. This year, 12 teams of six students each will compete from every school on campus, including the graduate schools and Oxford College of Emory, according to Harold.

Lee said this competition is exactly the large-scale event for which the Student Activities Fee (SAF) should be used – one that caters to all Emory students.

Some SGA legislators, like senior representative and College senior Brad Clement, were concerned that SGA would be depleting funds too quickly in funding the event.

“We need to think about whether this event is something we want to be spending a fourth of our funding on,” Clement said.

At the beginning of the semester, SGA had about $27,000 in its allocative budget, $19,000 of which rolled over from last semester. After funding the Lunar Banquet, SGA was left with $23,000.

Harold, however, promised that EASDA would ask other divisional councils to reimburse SGA for portions  – if not all – of the $4,000 because SGA is not allowed to retroactively fund events.

The event’s magnitude is far larger than just the competition component, as there are more than 30 student volunteers, participation from 40 students of the Student Advisory Committee of Global Health and judges from the Atlanta community, among others, according to Harold.

Despite concerns about the depletion of the budget, SGA legislators voiced support for the bill, especially because it brings together students from all of Emory’s schools.

Harold also added that if SGA gave EASDA no funding, the event would still be held as planned, but EASDA would have to dip into funds allotted for an international event.

– By Rupsha Basu

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