SGA votes to end Presidential Lecture Series’ endorsement

University President Randy Dunn (left) and SGA President Jeremiah welcome this year’s Presidential Lecture speakers, James Carville and Mary Matalin. || File Photo

Austin Ramsey
News Editor
Meghann Anderson
Staff writer

The Student Government Association has severed its support of the Presidential Lecture Series.

At this week’s session, Elizabeth Harris, executive treasurer for SGA, announced the President’s Office had billed student government for more than its original pledge of $40,000.

Harris said SGA had received two invoices requesting a total of $60,500 for the Mary Matalin and James Carville Presidential Lecture event.

The sum is $20,500 more than SGA’s original pledge and is leaving some members of the executive council puzzled.

Harris said when Josh Jacobs, chief of staff, introduced this year’s lecture to the senate, members were under the impression it would cost approximately $60,000 total, divided among the yearly event’s four sponsors – SGA, the President’s Office, Racer Live Productions and the MSU Foundation.

But now, Harris said, the real cost of the lecture is closer to $70,000 and is paid for almost entirely by SGA, save for a $10,000 appropriation by the MSU Foundation.

Harris said SGA was not prepared for the additional bill, and affirmed its original unanimous decision to end its sponsorship of the lecture series.

The vote came after the executive council analyzed SGA’s involvement.

“Every year the cost of the lecturer goes up,” Harris said at SGA’s March 7 meeting. “It is an unnecessary expense with low student attendance.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Harris announced the final bill for the 2011-12 presidential lecture.

She cited figures from the Maya Angelou lecture, which SGA also helps fund. Student government funneled a total of $38,788.90 toward that address.

Combined with the two invoices from the President’s Office, SGA has paid $99,288.90 for this academic year’s lectures. That’s approximately 60 percent of their annual budget of $166,396.

Many senators did not realize the cost of the endorsement.

“You can see with what events we already put on and the fees of these lectures, our budget is almost entirely depleted,” Harris said.

She said the executive council made the decision to eliminate funding for the lecture because they wanted to provide more student-focused programming.

“We must eliminate unnecessary expenses and assume budget cuts in the future,” Harris said.

Harris said SGA will have to look at how much money they are spending per student for these events.

SGA President Jeremiah Johnson said student government is losing money and not reaching its constituent base.

“The President’s Office can pull funds from the general fund to help make up for what SGA won’t pay,” Johnson said.

President Randy Dunn discussed SGA’s decision to end support prior to when Harris received the second invoice. He said the senates role as a sponsor for the lecture series was set up with a previous president and that he understood why the senators made the decision.

“Initially when the lecture was set … and they were trying to figure out how to get it funded years ago, I think it made sense to go to SGA for some level of support to get it off the ground,” Dunn said. “I think it’s probably more fair giving that ability to SGA to be able to use their fees in direct support of the things they really want to see happen.”

Dunn said when he outlines next year’s budget, he will look to reallocate some o funds to ensure there is enough money set aside for the type of speaker the University expects.

Dunn did not return phone calls after the senate’s announcement Wednesday night.

Nathan McNichols, freshman senator, agreed that students shouldn’t worry about having a presidential lecture.

“The presidential lecture will continue to take place every year,” McNichols said. “It just won’t have student government funding.”

He said the SGA has felt the statewide budget cuts just like the rest of campus.