A.S. debates merits of costly weekend retreat


Each year, the Associated Students board-elect goes on a retreat to get to know each other better and learn how to uphold proper parliamentary procedures and policies during their tenure. But who pays for these weekend getaways?

The A.S. Board of Directors votes yearly on approval for funding the trip for the newly elected board. The budget for this year's retreat comes in at up to $17,000.

The budget includes three days of food and lodging at a hotel for each board member and advisors. Per jurisdiction rules, the hotel must be within Santa Monica or Malibu.

One vocal member of the board, Director of Sustainability Justine Rembac, was the only vote against the action, stating she thought the amount excessive. In support of the action, Assistant Dean of Student Life, Deyna Hearn, reminded the board of the $5,700 budget they had just approved for the ICC Social, which would be considerably shorter than the three-day retreat.

Board members Mustafa Eck, Tobias Deml, Vince Slevin, and Tiffany Inabu all praised their learning experience at their own retreat and pushed for the passing of the action, which occurs every year. Recognizing the current budget issues at SMC, Deml said during the meeting, "Maybe anybody who is interested in lowering the cost could scramble around and negotiate with different hotels."

 "We're looking to cut money anywhere we can," said Rembac, who attended the previous year's retreat, after the decision to pass the action.

The state of the school's budget has led to the cutting of the study abroad program, which the AS had been helping to fund. "For the most part, we're supposed to be giving money to students to do things," said Rembac. "I just feel uncomfortable spending that much money on just ourselves."

According to Vince Slevin, AS director of budget management, the retreat falls under a budget line item that is set at the beginning of each year, meaning that it is set aside in advance based on the conferences they attend.

"There haven't been any unexpected costs," said Slevin. "It's fairly routine what we do from year to year."

Slevin also said that the board has been cutting back their costs for conferences by sending four directors, rather than the whole board as has been done in the past.

 "The $17,000 proposal seems excessive," said AS President-elect Harrison Wills after learning of the passing of the action. "I don't want to jump to any conclusions because I don't know all of the details. I'd have to really look at it."

During the meeting, Hearn made a point of saying that the fund was a deposit that would be returned to the next year's A.S. Board.

"When I went to Sacramento, I used couchsurfing.com instead of staying at a hotel," said Wills, thinking of alternatives. "I felt like it was an inherent contradiction to speak about budget cuts and fiscal responsibility while staying at a hotel."