USG members to be sworn in Wednesday


Emily Lambillotte

Kent State student Marvin Logan speaks at the Undergraduate Student Government debate Feb. 20, 2014. Logan will be sworn in as the executive director of Undergraduate Student Government.

Blair Donald

The new Undergraduate Student Government will be sworn in Wednesday as a part of the Spring Leadership Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

Marvin Logan, senior Pan-African studies major and the USG director of programming who was elected new executive director, said that he plans to change the way the organization communicates with the student body.

“The university as a whole is struggling on the communications side because we are entering a new age of a new student who communicates differently,” Logan said, “So the old methods need to be revised so that we have a better understanding of how to connect with our students.”

The USG is not officially a student organization, but a charter organization funded by Kent State with the purpose of acting as “the primary vehicle by which the undergraduate student body provides its input into the university community,” according to the official charter document.

The USG’s total budget this academic year is about $300,000, including rollover from previous years. The funding comes from the “Activities Fee” in all Kent State students’ tuition.

The USG gets .38 percent of the tuition any student pays or about $18.65 per in-state undergraduate student and $33.77 per out-of-state undergraduate student. Multiply that by about 22,000 undergraduate students, and it equals the total USG budget.

Justin Lagore, senior public relations major and USG chief of staff, said the USG spends the money on what students ask it to be spent on or on entertainment for students.

“Even internally we appoint a programming board — it’s never just one person,” Lagore said. “We strive to make sure we have committees of people that are diverse and representative of huge sectors of campus.”

The USG budget is split into two sections: the allocations budget and the programming budget, said Amish Patel, senior communications major and current executive director of the USG. Allocations money is distributed to students and student organizations to sponsor their programs and trips while the programming budget is spent on USG-controlled programs.

Patel said 51 percent of the total budget goes to USG programs, and the other portion is split between the allocations and programming budgets. But no matter how it is spent, Patel said it is all in the same account.

Bryan Staul, senior political science major and president of the College Democrats; Brandon Stephens, junior criminology and justice studies major and president of PRIDE! Kent; and Dillon Lloyd, senior criminology and justice studies major and a member of the College Republicans, recently said the programming budget was too vague to understand, and they asked USG for more transparency.

For example, the budget allocates $62,000 for something simply labeled “Co-Sponsored Events,” with no further breakdown of how the money is spent.

The programming budget lists $15,000 to “Late Night Programming.” The “Advertising” section of the budget has only one subhead, “General,” which gets $9,000. USG conferences and travel, which has no specifications either as to which or if the USG plans to go anywhere, is allowed $13,000.

The USG also allots $700 for voter registration. In comparison, the College Democrats and PRIDE! have worked together to register around 3,000 people with no money at all, according to reports from the organizations.

One of the most expensive things in the budget is office supplies. Six thousand five hundred dollars goes to office supplies, but there is no further breakdown on what exactly the money is spent.

Donna Carlton, the special coordinator for student affairs and USG faculty advisor, said the operating budget goes to other student organization activities even though it is for USG use.

Carlton said the computers and copiers available for student organizations and printing costs are paid for by the programming budget.

“Printing Maintenance” is allotted $3,500 of the operating budget, but the printer that is for the student organization’s use was out of ink for months on end, according to Staul, Stephens and Lloyd. The inkless printer led to months of frustration, and eventually the joint press release said their organizations would not endorse any candidates in this year’s USG elections.

Logan said that the organizations “have a right to complain.”

“If we don’t have a printer that’s working and that’s the only thing they have, it should be something that’s working,” Logan said. “If they want to see our budget it should be displayed; they should be able to see it. We can obviously do better.”

Though the student organizations have had problems with the programming budget, the allocations budget, which can be used for students and student organizations, has been heavily used this academic year.

The allocations budget this year was larger than what was actually allocated, due to rollover from previous years, said Eric Pahls, chair of the allocations committee and director of business and finance.

“For instance, right now it looks like we’re going to be moving $10,000 from the allocations budget to fund a program that’s going to install GPS on PARTA buses around Kent,” Pahls said. “We also donated a portion of the budget last year to buy the 3-D printer for the library. I mean, honestly it’s a pretty massive sum of money that you can accomplish some pretty cool things with.”

Pahls and his committee have spent $146,747 on student organizations this year and $8,932 on individuals going to conferences, according to the allocations budget records.

Students can request funds from the allocations budget money by filling out an Allocations form on the USG website. He or she must go to the next allocations meeting to hear his or her request. The committee then votes whether or not to fund the event.

Pahls said the allocations budget could be used for anything a student organization wants to do, as long as the program is inclusive to all students and the student or organization fills out the correct forms in time. Conference forms have to be filled out four weeks in advance, and event forms have to be in six weeks in advance.

“But generally when people submit applications, the big thing that people get turned away for is if they just have things that we just are unable to fund,” Pahls said.

USG guidelines state it is not allowed to fund things that only appeal to certain segments of the campus, and the organization asking for funding must have an open membership policy to be eligible for full funding.

But the allocations budget lacks a lot of information. The budget spreadsheet has spaces to record ticket sales, attendance, total spent on the event and a few other details. The only event that actually has these details recorded is the comedy show Black United Students organized, according to the current allocations records. All other spaces on the sheet are left blank.

Though it lacks many details, the allocations budget has produced events and the money can be traced, unlike the vague programming budget. Logan said that most of his budget is spent on on-campus entertainment.

“Mainly we do concerts, comedy shows and festivals. And those are what we use our budget for, and obviously the most expensive thing we do are concerts,” Logan said. “We usually try to be very fiscally responsible with the budget that we have, and the goal is never to make money with a concert — it’s always to recoup the money that we’ve spent.”

Logan said that some of the problems that the USG has had with communication with students and student organizations was partially due to the fact that there was no communications director for a few months this year.

“I think that we’ve had a little bit more difficulty communicating other things that we do because we’re in transition right now,” Logan said. “Our former director of communications stepped down for personal reasons. We want to be able to provide transparency. I think it will come down to continuing to work on student leaders such as them, doing better outreach with students who aren’t involved in anything. We can obviously do better.”

Logan said that he wants to see more hands-on work from members of the USG. He would like to institute “activity hours” as a required part of office hours so members would be required to be present for hours outside of their office and in the field. He also plans to revitalize the street team.

“I was able to go from a street team member to becoming the next executive director of student government,” Logan said. By really being hands-on and making a difference, seeing someone walking down the sidewalk; if you hand them a flyer, have a conversation.”

Contact Blair Donald at [email protected].