Still No SGI Budget

Student Government, Inc. on Oct. 1 announced plans to release a detailed financial report in an attempt to appease students who have requested the release of its complete 2012-13 budget.

The budget, which includes its planned expenditures for the school year, was passed by unanimous vote Sept. 10, but SGI representatives have refused the Torch’s repeated requests to make it public.

Responding to questions from Torch reporters at its floor meeting Monday at Bent Hall, SGI representatives said, instead, a financial report was being drafted by the e-board; adding that “full disclosure” would come “in the next few weeks.”

The organization has set a self-imposed deadline for first draft of the report on Oct. 4, according to Senior Senator Nicole Mastrangelo. SGI, however, appears to still have no plans to release its full, unrefined budget, despite numerous requests, and e-board members declined a request this week to meet with The Torch editorial board under any circumstance that included access to the budget.

Speaking after the floor meeting Monday, treasurer Elaine Vasquez claimed students have requested to see the budget outside of SGI meetings and that SGI has complied with their requests. But SGI representatives have consistently refused to show its budget to the student newspaper since the start of the school year.

In addition, several e-board members have made it clear that any student is invited to come to the floor meetings and view the budget as part of the full presentation to its floor members.

According to Vasquez, SGI did not prepare a financial report for the previous academic year but said it is common practice for non-profit corporations to do so.

An email sent to SGI floor members told them to redirect any questions they might receive about the financial report to Secretary Elizabeth Sheehan, a voting member of SGI told the Torch.

During Monday’s floor meeting, which is open to the St. John’s community to attend, the Torch was rebuffed when voicing concerns about the unpublished budget.

When the Torch asked about the budget during the treasurer’s report, SGI advisor and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Dean of Students, Danny Trujillo, asked if the questions were part of the general procedure of floor meetings, effectively postponing any questions in the public forum.

And after Torch reporters had taken photos of the budget that was displayed on a PowerPoint presentation during the meeting, Trujillo later asked to see the reporter’s phone.

SGI President Christian Williams told the Torch on Sept. 11 that he had “no problem” with the full budget being released, pending a meeting with Trujillo, but he has since tempered that position — only acquiescing to the release of a financial report.

From July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, SGI’s main source of revenue came from student activity fees, which for the Queens campus is $95 per student per semester according to the most recent tax returns obtained by the Torch. In the 2010/11 school year, SGI received $1.1 million in revenue, as well as close to $200,000 from “St. John’s programs.”