Outside the McKinney Humanities Building, some members of both The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) and Turning Point USA, two of the most politically active organizations on campus, set aside their polarizing ideological differences and joined in solidarity to demonstrate their disapproval of the Student Government Association’s (SGA) spending decisions.
Causing a temporary ceasefire among some members of political organizations, SGA’s decision to spend nearly $14,000 on their leadership summit resulted in an extraordinary student reaction.
SGA’s leadership summit, held at the UTSA Downtown Campus last year, is generally designed to educate SGA members about their responsibilities and effective ways to execute them. In SGA President Jack Rust’s own words, the gist of the summit is to communicate to SGA members, “What is your role and responsibility as a senator and teaching them our constitution and what it says you must abide by as a senator.”
Last year, the summit was held at the downtown campus and a total of $9,550 was budgeted. The overall experience, according to Rust, was not positive. “We were there for a full day, like a full breakfast tacos in the morning, finishing there in the afternoon into the evening. And it felt like homework.”
If SGA representatives feel like learning the functions of their election position is like “homework,” then they do not deserve to serve our community. Our SGA representatives need to be concerned about how to perform their duties in the most cost-effective way.
The purpose of the summit has not changed, yet the location has. The luxurious John Newcombe Tennis Ranch will be the destination for this year’s summit. SGA’s decision to host the summit at the ranch, and its decision to purchase more seats for other student leaders outside of SGA, has resulted in the summit being the largest expense (nearly 30 percent) of the overall SGA budget ($47,983). These funds are carved out of UTSA’s student fees.
The location of a leadership summit does not determine the effectiveness of our elected officials. If SGA members will benefit from a summit only if it’s held at an expensive tennis ranch, then their summit does not deserve to be funded by student fees.
The student body should not have to pay for SGA’s trip to John Newcombe Tennis Ranch under the guise of a “leadership summit” when they could be doing the same activities, with the same people, at a UTSA location.
While leadership skills are crucial to effective student governance, the venue is not. When the decision was made to increase the price of the summit by over $4,000, SGA should have based their decision on the potential benefits of the student body, rather than the benefit of themselves. Should SGA decide to travel to John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in the future, they should fund their trip with money from their own pockets — not the students’.