Georgia Tech Student Government Harboring Money

*Names have been left out deliberately to protect the identities of those involved*

Everyone is well aware of the copious amounts of random and outrageous fees that colleges charge their attendees, and there is more often than not some type of Student Activity Fee that is used to fund the Student Government.  This money is then channelled into different groupings, one of which is to fund budgets, bills, projects for the students and student organizations on campus. The student governments are usually divided between the undergraduates and the graduates. Specifically, at Tech it is the Graduate Student Senate and the Undergraduate Student House.

Personally, as an undergraduate I paid $123 every semester in Student Activity Fees.  Georgia Tech quotes 25,034 students enrolled for the 2015 school year.  I don’t know if summer students pay the activity fee or not, but SGA has a large budget to work with.  The Student Activity fee is increasing next fall (2016) to help cover the cost of a new Student Center (which is greatly needed, but that is beside the point).

To clarify, I understand the importance and difficulty of managing a budget that spreads across several platforms, as I myself am treasurer of my team (in which we receive money form different platforms and keep it in different types of on and off campus bank accounts).  Because I have been Assistant Treasurer and Treasurer, I have attended many SGA meetings and conferences and as well as talked to senators and house members about some of the actions/politics of SGA. The same of my predecessors and Presidents of the team.  This information is passed along to me, and is where many of my complaints and sources derive from.  Thus, I am sure there are costs and processes within SGA and the Joint Finance Committee that I am unaware of or I am mistaken about.

However, I like many other students at Georgia Tech pay a lot of money in random fees, and I would like them to use the fees accordingly. However, it has come to my attention that SGA has a very large surplus of money in their Capital Outlay Fund that they are sitting on (maybe 1.5 million, most likely much more like another million more) and they continue to build up this surplus by cutting budgets heavily.  Any money not spent in this Capital Outlay fund is rolled over to the next fiscal year, just to accumulate more.  The point of this money is to act somewhat like an emergency fund (which is wise to have).  But this money is just sitting there doing nothing, not even accrueing interest.  The last major student project on campus was the rehabilitation of the Student Athletic Fields as a result of broken pipes/drainage under the fields.  The catch is this: the surplus student activity fees/ “emergency fund” money was not fully used to fix this issue.  The majority of the project was fundraised as they had significant time to do so.  So my Student Activity fees sat unused in a bank account for the sole purpose of SGA boasting a budget of several million.

That money can be used to fund the budgets/bills of not just my team but of every other club on campus, especially the Tier III clubs who are cut heavily compared to the Tier II organizations (those politics are for another day and another blog post).  It is typical for 85-90% of the budget to be approved, yet clubs continually have to submit bills to the SGA to help cover costs.  For example, we submitted three bills for a rough addition of $58,000 to our budget, while a large portion of that was for a roof repair and a boat purchase, there was a signifiant bill passed for roughly $20,000 to cover entry fees and travel costs because SGA cut it from our FY 2016 budget, costs that would otherwise be internalized by our 80+ members.

As the Fiscal Year 2016 approaches the end, budget reviews are in process for Fiscal year 2017. AdHoc committees decided to make a recommendation of 10 cuts to all budgets across the board.  Our team was hit hardest by these two:  “Strike travel costs equal to or exceeding $1500 for a single event” and “Strike the 6th tournament registration for competitive organizations (if six were requested).”  There were other cuts that decreased our budget, but they were minimal compared to these two.  Now the Graduate Senate and the Undergraduate House vote separately on whether to accept these cuts from the AdHocs or not.  The Grads were silly enough to do so; hopefully, the undergrads will see the ridiculousness of the AdHoc cuts.  In the debate process one grad student rep made the terribly condescending remark of “cut budgets to the point that they [the clubs] can barley maintain themselves.”  What is the point of that? That effectively renders every team team and club on campus useless.  We would be unable to attend regattas, we could barely pay coaches, we wouldn’t be able to upkeep our equipment, dues would sky rocket.  We would essentially move from one of the best Club teams in the Southeast to one of the worst.  Unfortunately, many agreed with this man, stating that it would help organizations run more efficiently and effectively, and SGA wouldn’t be losing money from “handing out money “that was never used. (Which really makes no sense because if SGA Budgets are not cleared to zero by the end of the Fiscal year, SGA keeps that unspent money originally allocated to the Club.  They don’t really lose money.) There were several voices of reasons in the crowd who pointed out that that idea was flawed and would only create mayhem among Tech’s student organizations.

Without SGA’s funding our team could not exist.  Our members already end up paying somewhere around $1,000 and $1500 a year between dues and regatta fees for the Spring Season, and that is with SGA giving us money.  With these proposed cuts, which take out more than $17,000, our members would be paying close to $3000 a year to participate in a School Funded Club.  We pay our Student Activity Fees, we too would like to see the benefits of that money.  What is the point of cutting budgets when you already sit on millions of dollars that you do nothing with?  I pay into the system, and I would by-god like to see the results of that, not just for the sake of my club but for every club on campus.    

 

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the Pas de deux

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Two dancers. Black stage. They slowly articulate, moving separately and alone.  Too far apart to be one.  The eye bounces back and forth between the two.  Soft moves and quick tempos.   Reluctantly, they begin to explore the stage, moving from their respective corners with lunging glisades, bourrees, temps lie and tombes.  Slowly with the luring trills and crescendos they make their way to each other, hesitantly.  A force continues to draw them back to their corners ever so often.

The music trills and their bodies find themselves face to face.  heavy Breathing.  chests Moving up and down.  A soft, flow of her hand presents herself.  He grabs the offer.  The bodies become one.  Hands slowly move across each other’s bodies.  Gentle to the eye, but to each other their is no grace.  Tight grasps and strong holds.  Balance depends on the false illusion of simplicity and hidden force.

Arms wrap around each other, bodies brush past each other.  Feet quickly dancing in time.  Legs bending, breaking the force, providing the energy.  Quick Quick Slow.  Harsh Harsh soft.

The Music softens as the two slow.  Their bodies no longer intertwining together.  He slowly lets his hand slide down her torso and off her skirt.  Her hand slowly floats off his shoulder.  Soft glances and she parts way.  Her simple steps, her light steps carry her away.  He stands there with his arm still out stretched from falling off her body.

 

Recruiting for the Rowing Team P.4: Farewell Summer

Today was the last day of summer recruiting.  The Bookstore was jamming with orientation students and freshman buying books.  Excited freshman anticipating the start of school on Monday wandered around the store, a little lost I may add. It was hard not to pick up on the mood and goof off a bit.

Okayyyy, we spent the entire time goofing off.

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uh, I am really not too sure what this is… 

We even made friends with some other cool people (they were recruiting lifeguards) who shared our table. (Correction they stole our table.)  They were a great help, telling keen potential lightweight novice freshman that they actually needed three years of experience and had to be 6’3” to join rowing.

This also happened…….

Also, in good fashion the lights in Barnes and Nobles decided to randomly turn off.  To which the very hungry and unhappy Hannah who really wanted one of the cookies being offered commented, “The room lights up based on my attitude.”  Note: the lights came back on when I told her she could go get a cookie.

Our good friend, Melissa from Student Center Services, keep her typical orientation promise of cookies for everyone!   nom noms!!!!

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Cookie monsters strike again stealing cookies from freshman. 

We may or may not have watched non-rowing related videos on youtube instead of attracting people with our hype videos.

Oh, did I mention I was serenaded by a terribly off key ginger.

I honestly, don’t think we recruited anyone today.

*Disclaimer: No rowers were injured in the process of recruiting.*

Recruiting for the Rowing Team P.3: Unexpected Events

It’s a swell day.  We are at Barnes and Nobles just recruiting when a lovely siren goes off.  In the past it was just some random siren from the tech department.  But noooo not  today.

Please exit the building.  Smoke has been detected in the area. 

UGhhhhh, Quick grab the medals.  That’s the only important thing.

Chilling outside.  The sun is beating down on us.

Some kid rolls by on this contraption. Yes, rolls.  

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And of course somebody has to try it out for himself.

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photo 3 Despite secretly wishing you would fall off, thanks for entertaining us.

Recruiting for the Rowing Team p.2: Behind the Scenes

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Back at it again!!! 1 Week before school starts up and practices begin… arrrrghhhhh!!!!!

Recruiting in-coming freshman once again in the heat. Who shall we hit up with our prepared speeches of glory?  Of course, we stereotype people. Rowers and coxs alike. But we also welcome anyone who lingers or stares too long at our table.  Dude we see you starring…You know you want to join GT rowing. 

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But what really happens behind the table.

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The wind blows by and the poster flies away because a certain person abandoned their one job of holding the poster in place.  YOU HAD ONE JOB!!!!!!

There is always that one kid who eats all the popsicle that are meant for those that sign up.

Someone always throws out the idea of hitting people with the oars to attract them to our table instead of the other sports teams next to us.  (and Yes, we bash the other club sports.)

A drunk party story is bound to come up.

A very hungry rower is bound to be snacking… let’s be honest it’s actually me.

Debating about whether we should approach a certain person.

Trying to hold the oars up and someone commenting that it looks like a stripper pole. (proceeded by awk giggles and comments) 

Deliberately planning to recruit the hot guys walking by and then fan girling over the fact that they actual signed up. ( #sorrynotsorry we want a hot novice men’s team.)

And, everyone is complaining about the heat.

Recruiting for the Rowing Team P.1: Conversations

Freshman Orientation.  Hi. Hello.  Can I interest you in the rowing team at Tech?  No experience necessary…..

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Easy, Straightforward.  Think Twice.

Here are some fabulous quotes from the summer experience of recruiting new team members.

Them:

“What is rowing?”

“No thanks. I’m not a runner.” ( umm okay)

“I don’t have any upper body strength. Sorry”

“Do you row on water?” (no, this is a land sport.)

“I kayaked once. Does that count?”

“What is the time commitment?

          – About 3 or 4 practices a week(straight up lie)

“I’ll sign up! I’m just looking to make some friends.  I don’t really know anyone.”

“No experience!!! Awesome! Where do I sign up?”

“I’ll sign up for the free sunglasses.” 

“Can I get these medals if I join?”

“Why when I see rowing, is it always women? Is there a men’s team?”

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Us:

“You can make lots of tall friends”

“Hey, you there in the green shirt!”

“-You look like ya’ll played sports in High School.

          -oh, uh. I didn’t play any sports.” ( this is suddenly awk)

” I don’t know what kind of friends you are looking for, but we are pretty cool.”

“We have lots of parties.” (let’s not say that in front of parents. We have social events.)

“It’s like Greek life but you stay in shape and travel across the country and (looks to the parents) it’s cheaper!”

I should really make my bed

photoI should really make my bed….. but why? only to mess it up again

flowers on the sill, candles burn under the petals..

The afternoon sun shines through the votive holder,

throwing shadows up on the wall.

Books prop the window up. the breeze ruffles the flower petals.

a book lays on the corner of the bed, nestled into the folds of the sheets.

Everything in order… Everything in order… everything in Order.

The bed still unmade. The sun fades across the sheets.

Why make it?

The one piece of childhood defiance…

not making the bed…

Everything in order… Everything in order… Everything in Order,

except the bed.

Life moved on, I grew up, yet childhood defiance remains in one aspect.

Everything in Order.

I really shouldn’t make my bed.

Clean up, Clean up, Everybody do their share

With the creation of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change in the 1990s and its ratification in 1994, came the emergence of the “common but differentiating responsibility” Article. The developed (Annex 1) nations such as the U.S., Britain, and Germany (the three greatest Industrial powers in the 1860s) where able to use “dirty” methods in factories in an effort to modernize Industry and bring about an economic development.  However, under the scientific research, the fossil fuels that were burned let off carbon emissions such as CO2, SO2, and others that damaged the environment.  The UN came together to mitigate and to adapt to this new security challenge by reducing the amount of emissions.  According to the developed nations (Non-Annex 1 countries), these Annex 1 countries had been allowed to develop their industries and spark GDP increases without knowing that the side effects were so damaging, yet the Non-Annex I countries were not allowed to have the chance to develop their economies through industry building.  Hence a common (fighting climate change) but differentiated (developed take more responsibility) challenge.

This is BS.  These countries continue polluting the air with emissions that cause climate change and effect their areas more than other areas.  Take Africa for example, most nations there are under the classification of Non-Annex I countries.  There has been somewhat of a mini-Industrialize revolution in certain cities. (People are moving away from their farms or tribes in the African “country-side” towards the city looking for work in factories, creating very much similar situations in the 1860s.)  The factories want to use cheap factors of production, which is coal and burning fossil fuels,  to keep costs down.  However, these areas first-handly experience the side effects of this.  The desertification of the North Africa with more draughts and less food….. driving more people to the city looking for work.  South East Asia has also seen the increase in industrialization, yet constantly see heavy flooding and the disappearing of their coastal areas where people still live in fishing communities.  One would think that as these countries see the devastating effects of climate change, and must pay to provide aid and adaptive methods like sea walls and wells that the governments would be on board with trying to eliminate/ lessen a problem that cause instability and the divergence of money that could be spent elsewhere like in clean energy technology.

Another solution, gradually invest in the development and research of clean technologies.  And isn’t the investment in technology one of the biggest contributions to increase a country’s GDP???  Nothing has to be so immediate that it causes the economies to spiral down. No one said that the key to economic growth is emitting dangerous contaminates into the environment. For example, in the 2000s the economy saw a boost from the Technological Revolution.

China needs to step up and acknowledge that they are a developed nation.  Their GDP/capita is one the largest.  Their economy is growing at fast rate.  They own debt of several developed nations.  The U.S is dependent on China as a trading partner.  No China… No strong U.S economy.  A healthy economy is part of being a developed nation.  If classified as an Annex I member then China would have a binding requirement to  reduce the emissions,  and as one of the largest world emitters this would create a significant effect.

These countries, in particular those who control the governments, are just using this “identity” as an excuse to not take part in a communal problem, letting other people deal with the issue, free riding on the works of others.  It is the tragedy of the commons in another form.  No one wants to take the initiative and do something really shocking and beneficial towards the universal issue of climate change.  (The EU has been the closest.)  Every country should pitch in and help.  CO2 and methane collects in the air and affects won’t be felt for years, so what these “developing” nations emit now will just undo what was done and is being done by other countries who are at least trying to do something.  Stern notes that “the emissions of developing nations are likely to raise more rapidly.”  To make a large impact and reduce the temperature so not to have to the worst possible scenario of the AR5 and  A2 storyline, every nation must develop and follow through on policies of reduction, mitigation, and adaption.

Sounds…. All around…. Can’t escape

An exhibition on sounds… Sounds with political and social implications. Nothing to see….. But listen…. Open your ears and imagination….

That’s what we did today at our first museum in Luxembourg. Advertised as an contemporary art museum the Casino Art Museum is currently hosting an aural exhibition. Nothing what we expected a modern art house to show. There were some intriguing displays like the empty room with a single radio or the fluorescent white walled room with bass humming or the steps outside the building leading to the sky listening to the “bustle” of Luxembourg city.

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Some Things are Better Left in the Past

After the World Wars, people hoped to never experience the atrocities and world destruction brought on by an all-out war.  Institutions such as the European Coal and Steel Community (the foundations of the EU), NATO, and the UN were developed in an effort to bring peace and trust among nations by creating an area in which to discuss relations that would unite nations together in such a way as to make war costly and unadvantageous.  So far while there have been wars and conflicts none have been as large-scale and devastating as WWII.  

In the past few years feelings of  pre-WWII tensions have emerged, especially in the older generations who remember the 1930s and 1940s.  My godmother is Dutch and her mother (who was a close family friend) grew up in the Netherlands under the political turmoil of the 30s, the Nazi occupation during the war itself, and the American reconstruction afterwards as an older teenager and a young adult.  About five or six years ago she mentioned that socially and politically the world felt as it did in the years leading up to WWII.  I believe that then the such an idea would have been scoffed at in the media and possibly by the diplomats themselves at that time.  Our main concern in America was the Middle East and the war on terrorism something that did not spark memories of the Nazi domination.  Yes, there had been a few squirmishes in the East with Russia in Estonia and Georgia, but Russia was still seen as country trying to recover itself from losing a large portion of its territory about twenty years prior and the collapse of a political orientation.  The EU and NATO had seen enlargements– promising the continuation of peace and democratic norms on the European continent.  Despite these appearances, something did not sit well in the air for her– she could smell turmoil coming.

 

Looking at current global events the parallels between now and the pre war era are strong.  Even some of the diplomats and military personal involved in NATO and the EU that we have talked to on this study abroad have brought up the uncanny idea that events are playing out awfully similar to the 30’s. So just what are these similarities?

1. The entrance to the twentieth century saw the rise political ideas like communism, socialism, and fascism.  These were considered radical groups.  The past EU elections saw the rise in the radical right.  These groups are becoming more popular with the people as their trust in the EU diminishes.  While they do not form a formal political group nor do they have the majority of seats in the EU parliament, there number of radical right MEPs increased to be about 1/6 of the parliament.  

2.  1929 saw the collapse of the stock market and unemployment around 27% in the U.S.  High inflation persisted throughout the world, most famously in Germany.  Granted this downturn was worsened by the dust bowl.  The “Great Recession” in 2009 is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Once could call it the the Great Depression of this century.  

3.  In 1938, Hitler invaded the Sudetenland under the pretense of protecting the German speakers in Czechoslovakia…… Sounds familiar to what our good friend Putin announced a few a weeks ago in accordance to his annexation of Crimea — The protection of Russian speakers.  

4. Hitler continued to take land, yet the Brits called for Appeasement, the French followed suit, and the Americans stood by in an efforts to be isolationists.  Putin annexed a part of Ukraine with no war and no formal agreement between the two states.  What did the rest of the world do???? Oh, Ukraine, you are not a NATO member nor an EU member state, therefore, we can not defend you.  We can only support you.  We can step up security measures in member states who are neighbors in an effort to show military strength in that area.  We are willing to send third party observers to confirm that Russia is not acting within norms that were agreed upon in the NATO-Russian Council.  A statement that Ukraine is an Eastern European country that means nothing to the West nor our self-interests.  In a sense we are using Appeasement methods again, and that just leads to more conflict in the future.    

5. Goebbels was the propaganda minister to Hitler who waged essentially a propaganda war– Just check out the movie Triumph of the Will  by Leni Riefenstahl.  Now, look at just look at the titles of articles from Pravda: “Ukraine: Another US mission gone wrong”, “The West: Blind, Manipulative and Evil” or this quote from the article “Can Germans afford it a third time”– “Yet the West is accusing Russia of deploying armed forces and arming Russian-speaking protestors to create unrest and chaos in Ukraine to prevent Presidential elections on 25 May.”

6. While the rest of the Europe and her allies were decreasing their militaries, Germany increased hers despite the100,000 men restriction.  As a result of the 2009 “Great Recession” and ensuing Eurozone crisis, the European members of NATO and the EU struggle to find the room in the budgets to increase or at least maintain defense spending.  Europe is in a minor security crisis trying to create a  “smart defense” that is effective in providing interoperable military capacities.  Russia doesn’t seem to have this issue, with 4.5% of their GDP going to defense spending, while most NATO countries are not even at half of that.    

 

 If the people running our governments and controlling the alliances acknowledge this parallel, what does that mean for our policies that will be developed in the future against these developing threats?  Could just the talk of the past war lead to policies that reflect what happened in the 1930s?  Could we be brought closer to the brink of war, again??