A controversial allocation of council funding in North Quad Residence Hall has led to a reduction of the allotment and the passage of a prevention measure in a separate residence hall to ensure a similar circumstance doesn’t arise there in the future.
Following criticism that money was unethically allocated for a service trip to Peru for a few North Quad residents, the North Quad Multicultural Council voted on Sunday to reduce the amount of funding appropriated for the trip by $500.
The council came under scrutiny after it approved $2,000 dollars in funding for the trip during a meeting on Sunday, March 27. The decision to reduce funding for the trip was made after seven residents dropped out of the program. Two of the residents held executive board positions on the council.
In response to the situation, the Stockwell Second Year Experience programming board passed an amendment last night to restrict future funding to only programs that affect a vast majority of residents.
LSA junior Andrew Schantz, chair of finance for the Multicultural Council, said the service trip had been a priority for the council since the beginning of the year because of North Quad’s international focus. Schantz added that the money wasn’t appropriated to fund a vacation for students, but instead to fund a service-based trip that would allow participating residents to share their experiences with students upon their return.
“It’s not like we’re using this money frivolously …” he said. “The day that they hit the ground in Peru, they’re going to be doing service work at elementary schools at Cusco. So it’s not like this is going to be relaxing and leisurely time for anybody. It’s going to be a lot of hard work.”
Due to the reduction in participants and additional funding from the Michigan Student Assembly, Residence Halls Association and the Ginsberg Center, the Committee for International Impact — a subcommittee of the North Quad Multicultural Council — offered to return some of the funding they had initially requested from the council, Schantz said.
The council also faced criticism for voting on the allocation of funds since several of the council members were originally going to go on the trip. However, the executive board members and representatives of the Multicultural Council who are participating in the service trip decided it was ethical to vote on the proposal to grant funding for the trip after discussing it with Hall Director Laura Johnson, Schantz said.
“We felt that since the participants on the trip are residents in the residence hall, and we pay the same amount of money towards the general fund that goes towards the budget … they had every right to do so,” Schantz said. “It seemed unfair to take their vote away from them if they are under the same conditions. They paid those dues like everybody else.”
LSA sophomore Lauren Mullins, co-chair of International Impact, will no longer be participating in the service trip. She wrote in an e-mail interview that before voting on funding for the trip, a vote was held to decide whether those participating could vote.
“This service trip is meant to develop and advance North Quad’s theme community of International Impact, so in my mind, allocating funding for this trip is benefiting more than just the residents participating, it is contributing to the residence hall as a whole and promoting their mission of affecting change on a global issue,” she wrote.
Because of the incident in North Quad, members of the Stockwell Second Year Experience board voted in favor of a resolution that would “look to fund programs and events which will positively affect a large number of its residents.”
Brendan Devlin, secretary of the Stockwell Second Year Experience programming board, said the amendment is similar to a policy RHA already has in place.
David Guenther, executive chair of the programming board at Stockwell, said the board wanted to ensure a trip similar to that of North Quad wouldn’t be funded in their hall.
“I think that at least at the RHA meeting, the representatives seemed to lose focus on what their roles are,” Guenther said. “It’s not to do what you think is right, it’s to do what you think the residents want.”
University Housing spokesman Peter Logan declined to comment on the Stockwell programming board’s amendment until he receives more information on the proposal.
Though it isn’t likely to be enacted in other halls, Guenther said he hopes Stockwell’s amendment encourages other representatives to adhere to the funding policies.
“We hoped that this would encourage restrictions on how money is spent, and the (executive board) has a large influence on what happens, which they should, but I feel like there should be more regulation on how money is distributed,” Guenther said.
LSA junior James Prendergast, a North Quad resident, said though hall councils have a right to use their funding as they see fit, allowing trip participants to vote was unethical.
“I think it comes under the realm of corruption when you’re allowed to vote on funding for yourself,” he said.
He added that he thinks funding should be cut even more since residents’ money is going to be used to fund a trip for only a few people.
“I think that only reducing it by $500 is a slap in the face,” he said.
LSA sophomore Molly Spalding, a resident of North Quad and a trip participant, said she doesn’t understand why there were problems with funding the trip, as it had been a well-known goal to fund the travels during the year.
“Since our theme is International Impact, the whole goal was to fund, or partially fund, an international service trip,” she said. “I think everyone was aware of that throughout the year.”
— YounJoo Sang contributed to this report.