AS provides funds for winter

The Associated Students voted and approved the contribution of $200,000 to provide an AS co-sponsored winter session at their meeting Monday afternoon. The money will serve to alleviate some of the debt that is being caused by the winter session. The district will use roughly $1.5 million in deficit spending to fund the 2013 winter session, according to Parker Jean, the AS president. The Foundation is also seeking private donors to support the winter session.

Fifty thousand dollars will come from a joint presidents’ account shared between Jean and SMC President and Superintendent Chui L. Tsang. The additional $150,000 will be placed in a restricted fund titled Student Success.

Initially, the AS had planned to use $100,000 of their reserve funds and $50,000 from a contingency fund. However, their budget manager, director of auxiliary services George Prather, presented the current budget and proposed that $150,000 be moved from the ending balance to Student Success, which will be included in this year’s expenses. This is the money Prather described as “cash on hand” as opposed to the $1 million in reserves that are tied up in investments. “What better funds to use to help fund winter session than Student Success?” Prather asked.

According to Mike Tuitasi, vice president of student affairs, no other institution had brought this idea forward.

Some AS board members thought it would be better to wait until the next meeting before voting; they felt they were not adequately informed. Vice President Jesus Vasquez expressed concern that if the AS made this donation, it would set a precedent for future funding.

Jean responded to this, saying “I hope this is not a pattern. At the end of the day, it is the district’s job to provide classes.” Regarding members being uninformed, Jean noted that although the process was quick, everything was presented in public meetings that any of the members could have attended.

“I’m all for transparency, but I think this process has been very transparent,” he said. “I cannot apologize for you guys not coming to these meetings,” he said.

Jean also felt that if it were delayed, the point would be diluted. “We’re more likely to get funding from others if we have support on campus,” he said.

Ultimately, there were no votes against the funding, and only one abstention from Vasquez.

Former AS President Harrison Wills was commended for being “socially liberal but fiscally conservative,” which gave the current board the freedom to make a sizeable donation.

“Harrison was radically frugal,” said Joshua Scuteri, the previous student trustee. Scuteri made a public comment and supported the board’s decision to help fund winter session by quoting the AS constitution, and their goal to “assist in educational advancement.”

Tuitasi also made a public comment. “On behalf of Dr. Tsang and his staff, we want to thank you guys for being innovative,” he said. “We are very glad that we were able to look outside of the box so we can provide winter courses to students.”

AS Trustee Susan Aminoff was also in attendance. “I am very pleased with the actions the AS has taken,” she said. “Students need winter to assure progress.”

Jean raised the question of whether or not it is ethical for the AS to “sit” on their money in a time of desperate need.

“We have rare opportunity and a generous amount of money — let’s be generous with our money,” Jean said.