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Contingency Committee deliberates outcome

By Yasna Haghdoost     11/12/14 8:06am

The Student Association Blanket Tax Contingency Committee deliberated on whether to find Honor Council in good standing, violation or aggravated violation of the blanket tax process at the latest meeting on Monday. 

As of the latest meeting, Honor Council has submitted a letter to the committee in response to concerns raised in the Oct 27. meeting, as well as an amended budget for 2014-15 and a projected budget for 2015-16. 

Amended Budget

In the letter to the committee, Honor Council Chair Hurst Williamson wrote that the organization will now discontinue its practice of buying gifts for departing seniors, an expense that totaled around $400 a year. Williamson, a Hanszen College senior, also wrote that Honor Council’s changeover dinner will be reduced from a price of $50 per person to a maximum of $25 per person starting in spring 2015. 

“Changeover dinner at $50 or less per person was consistent with Honor Council’s understanding [of] Rice University policy,” Williamson wrote. “The Honor Council now understands, through the committee, that the student body wants blanket tax organizations to follow a different expectation.” 

In the original 2014-15 budget submitted before its meeting with the Contingency Committee, Honor Council had listed $1,700 under “Student Organization Events,” with $1,500 of that amount allocated for the changeover dinner. 

Now, under the amended 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets, Honor Council allocates $2,200 for student organization events. While the price of the changeover dinner has been halved to $750, a new expenditure of $1,250 listed under “misc. meals” has been added. This expense was not included in the original proposed budget. 

The amended budgets also include a new expenditure of $2,260 for training and conferences. The training, which Honor Council has projected as a two-night event for four people, allocateds $900 for three hotel rooms, $1000 for conference registration and $360 for meals. 

However, Honor Council has still failed to provide its C- and D- fund expense reports from the past four years, which were requested by the Contingency Committee over a month ago now.

In a constitutional clarification regarding the contingency process, University Court stated that an organization’s noncompliance can be grounds for a violation.

“An organization’s failure to comply with the contingency process, unless the available information supports a finding of Good Standing despite the noncompliance, constitutes a violation [of the SA constitution],” UCourt Secretary Makenzie Drukker wrote in the court’s abstract.

Potential Outcomes

The voting members of the Contingency Committee can find Honor Council either in compliance, in violation or in aggravated violation of blanket tax review criteria. 

The SA constitution states blanket tax organizations must use their funds to further their “mission, purpose and goals,” solely for “organizational purposes,” and “in a manner consistent with all Rice University rules and regulations.” It further requires these organizations to be “good stewards of student money.” If a blanket tax organization does not meet one or more of these four review criteria, then the Contingency Committee will find it in violation.

An aggravated violation can occur if an organization has a surplus greater than 50 percent, cannot justify such a surplus and does not address the issue reasonably in its proposed budget for the current year. A single violation is similar to a strike, while an aggravated counts as two strikes. If an organization accrues three strikes in a four-year period, the Contingency Committee can recommend a decrease in blanket tax funding.

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