Our View

The words “line item” may not mean much to many Simpson students, but they should.

In the Student Government Association, line-item classification means an organization gets funding automatically – no requests, no submitted receipts, no hassles. It’s designed to make it easier for certain groups to hold events because they don’t have to visit SGA every time they need funding.

However, groups have to meet certain criteria to be considered line item. They have to be an active organization for two years, their purposes cannot overlap with other line-item organizations and they have to actually need funding before the beginning of the school year. Finally, perhaps the most difficult criteria to prove, they need to have what SGA calls campus-wide impact.

These criteria are vague to say the least. They’re subject to interpretation – however, that’s not altogether wrong. SGA has to maintain some level of flexibility in its definition of line-item status so new organizations have the opportunity to earn it.

Flexibility can also lead to problems, though, because it requires senators to rely on their personal opinions. Since senators change every year, the way SGA as a whole evaluates line-item organizations changes along with them.

Consider the concept of campus-wide impact. How do you define it? The members of LGBTQA believe their focus on education has a significant impact at Simpson, but senators at the line-item meeting on March 29 said the group failed to affect enough of the campus community.

There’s more to it than that, though. The SGA minutes make it clear that senators had different questions for LGBTQA than they had for, say, the Sequel. It would be ideal if the extra questions came from a genuine desire to evaluate LGBTQA and its effect on Simpson, but several of those who were there readily admitted bias had played into the discussion.

Another issue besides campus-wide impact is the need for funding demonstrated by groups. Almost every organization on campus, line item or not, could justify that it needs funding before the beginning of the year. With funding at its fingertips from the beginning, an organization could plan more activities and improve existing activities.

Those students who paid attention to what happened at SGA’s line-item meetings aren’t all happy with the results. One complaint is that organizations aren’t all treated the same, but it’s hard to do so when there aren’t any guidelines for evaluation.

One way SGA can help maintain consistency from year to year is to outline what a group needs to do to have campus-wide impact. With written guidelines, senators can judge groups more fairly while maintaining the necessary flexibility during line-item evaluations.

However, the student body in general also has a responsibility to make sure SGA is fair. Students need to vote in elections at a much higher rate than they currently do – so when a senator claims he or she is representing his or her constituents, it’s true.

Students need to vote, but they also need to run for offices. The senior class this year is represented in SGA by four senators, but those four senators were the only ones who ran for the positions. It’s hard to know whether they were elected because seniors thought they were good representatives or whether they were just the only ones interested. If more students run for office, there’s a better chance they’ll reflect the rest of the student body.

Whether or not you agree with SGA’s recent decisions on line-item status, you still have an obligation to take action. Vote. It’s simple. But before you do, ask your current senators how they voted in the line-item meetings and consider whether they’re an accurate representation of your own values.