The Student Commission denied the Kalamazoo Outing Club’s (KOC) $5,000 budget request for annual expenses at Monday night’s general meeting, a move that the Commission called a push “toward greater consistency with the budget.”
When Secretary of Finance Amanda Johnson introduced the Outing Club’s request, she explained that the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) had recommended the request be denied, following committee evaluation the night before.
For FPC member Will Guedes ‘15, the main point of contention was the lack of written detail on KOC’s budget form—a sentiment echoed by Secretary Johnson and other FPC members, who felt such a large request warranted a more detailed explanation.
KOC’s Executive Board was invited to the front of the room to present a keynote presentation, which, they hoped, might shed greater light on the requests’ merits.
Before the board members began their presentation, Student Commission President Cameron Goodall ‘15 explained to the Commission’s newly inaugurated first-year commissioners that any vote following the presentation will “most likely be very complicated and emotional, so don’t feel pressured to vote, you can abstain,” he said.
Goodall then qualified his statement, explaining that he was not formally asking the first-years to abstain from the vote, but was simply highlighting their ability to do so.
Following this, KOC’s representatives were allowed to present their request.
In their presentation, the members underscored the club’s position as a positive and all-inclusive student organization—boasting an annual impact on over ten percent of the College’s student body.
By providing non-competitive and subsidized outdoor excursions, “we make the outdoors economically accessible to everyone,” club treasurer Will Bartz ‘17 said.
Most of the groups’s trips, ranging from bike rides through the arboretum, to campouts on the Sleeping Bear Dunes, are nearly, if not completely free for students. According to the KOC, every event is open to the entire student body. Because different students enjoy different activities, the group’s inclusive format allows participants to pick and choose trips that cater to their specific outdoor interests.
“Some people are just hikers and some people are just skiers, and that’s cool. We want to embrace that,” club representative Kira Sandiford ‘15 said.
When asked why the group needed their annual $5,000 request in bulk, rather than per event, Bartz explained that the KOC needs money in one sum to adequately and efficiently provide for their weekly outings, which are subject to change based on weather conditions.
The KOC leadership reassured Commissioners that the $5,000 allocation would not float aimlessly once granted, as club faculty advisor Jorich Horner has complete agency over all Outing Club funds.
For Commission Vice President Rian Brown ’15, this element was less than reassuring.
“I don’t think I’m comfortable giving money from the Student Activities Fund over to a [college representative],” she said.
As the Outing Club’s presentation reached the ten-minute mark, commissioners began to vocally complain about the presentation’s duration. Following audible grumbling from the back of the room, Goodall told KOC to cut-off their presentation, to which Secretary of Student Affairs Mele Makalo ‘15 said, “[the cut-off] is long overdue.”
The Commission then debated the budget proposal.
Emily Sklar ‘15 expressed her support for the request and motioned for a $5,000 KOC budget allocation.
Will Guedes ‘15 motioned to amend Sklar’s $5,000 allocation to $2,000, explaining that it made sense to give the group enough money to operate while they sort out a more nuanced budget solution with the Commission.
Guedes’ motion was quickly voted down, returning focus to the original motion of $5,000.
Reiterating Goodall’s earlier point, Secretary of Communications Skylar Young ‘15 suggested to the first-year commissioners that they should consider abstaining from the vote.
“It’s super complicated and you guys are new, so we get it if you choose [to abstain],” Young said. “Like, I’m not saying that you should, I’m just saying—so yeah.”
After an initial vote revealed that not every commissioner had participated, a revote was held, resulting in a deadlock count of 11 to 11.
Goodall cast a tie-breaking 23rd vote in favor of the requests’ opponents, leading to an ultimate ‘no’ vote from the commission with 11 for and 12 against with zero abstentions.
Following the vote, Goodall encouraged the group to return with a more detailed budget request.
KOC’s executive board left the meeting after the vote, and was followed out of the room by Makalo and Young.
The KOC members, visibly upset, expressed profound dissatisfaction with the result. Chief among their complaints was the feeling that commissioners were rushing them during the presentation.
Makalo and Young apologized to the Outing Club’s board for the way the request was handled.
Despite having both voted against the budget request, the two commissioners attributed the ‘no’ vote to the inexperience of the freshly inaugurated first year commissioners, rather than their own votes.
Because the vote initially ended in a tie, either of the commissioners’ votes could have changed the outcome.
At the meeting’s close, the Commission’s Constitutional Integrity Committee chair Samantha Foran ‘15 confirmed that there is not a set time limit for Student Commission meetings—meaning that when the Outing Club’s presentation was cut short, it was because Commissioners wanted to ‘get on with it,’ and not because they were actually working within a time limit.
Goodall acknowledged that the debate that followed KOC’s presentation was less than ideal.
“I know there were some questions asked afterward that were answered in the presentation, but I think that might have been an issue of active listening during the presentation, because there were things that were brought up later that were already asked or said,” he said.
Despite the Commission’s “issue of active listening,” Goodall maintains that a ‘no’ vote does not mean the end for the KOC.
“A yes is a permanent yes, but a no can be temporary,” he said.
A ‘no’ vote may be temporary, but it is uncertain how long it will take the Commission to reconcile its desire for consistency and its distaste for precedence.