Student Council passes bill to amend Student Activity Fee guidelines

The SAF bill clarifies Student Council’s funding policy for services, food, travel

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Student Council met on Tuesday to discuss Student Activity Fee funding and the Student Financial Services office.

Katja Cresanti | Cavalier Daily

Student Council unanimously passed a bill to adjust the allowed uses of Student Activity Fee funds during its first meeting of the semester Tuesday evening. The $50 Student Activity Fee is a mandatory fee students pay, which supports Student Council’s funding of the activities of Contracted Independent Organizations.

According to the language of the resolution, the changes to the Student Activity Fee guidelines are “in the interest of clarity and accessibility for student organizations.” The bill allows funding for food — which was previously barred entirely — to items that form “a critical component” of a given activity. It also establishes a new maximums for flights or mileage reimbursements based on destination. 

The bill was introduced by Ty Zirkle, a fourth-year College student and Vice President for Organizations, who said that the new resolution expands accessibility to funding. 

“This bill is really pretty cursory, it clarifies some of the language about the process,” Zirkle said. “The SAF guidelines are more than just a restriction on funds, it’s also a manual for how to apply for funds. One of the only really significant changes to content is the special consideration affecting food. This actually now expands the acceptable uses for funds.”

The Council also voted to table a resolution that urged “better communication” from the office of Student Financial Services. The resolution attempted to respond to the long delay in communication between SFS and the student body over the summer with regards to the notification of students about their financial aid packages.  In part, the resolution read, “The University of Virginia Student Council urges Student Financial Services to better communicate delays in financial aid rewards in the future so that students are not worried about their financial situation.”

Third-year College student Ellie Brasacchio, the chair of the Representative Body, explained the cause of drafting the resolution. Approximately 34 percent of undergraduate students at U.Va. receive some financial aid, and many were left in the dark about their financial situation for the 2018 academic year, even as the start of the fall semester rapidly approached. 

“Students were informed on August 1 that they would have delays in getting their financial aid packages, which we don’t think was giving them adequate time to change their financial needs in order to start the school year off right,” Brasacchio said. “So this resolution really just says that if student services has issues in the future, we really want them to communicate better to University students earlier so that they can adjust their plans.”

Avery Gagne, a second-year College student and representative, expressed his personal frustration with the lack of communication from SFS this summer.

“If you called SFS over the summer, you had the chance of getting your phone line dropped, and so there were examples of students waiting for 20 minutes to get on a call with a representative only to have to call again,” Gagne said.

Liya Abseno, a fourth-year College student and representative, said that she supported the spirit of the resolution, but that she was worried that the language was non-specific. 

“I think this is headed in the right direction, Abseno said. “I just think it’s vague and I don’t understand how it’s going to be implemented.”

Abseno’s concern garnered support among other representatives, and ultimately the Council voted to table the resolution. 

Representatives also unanimously approved a bill that renamed the U.Va. Student Community Food Bank to the U.Va. Community Food Pantry. The bill also mandated that an executive director of the pantry be appointed by the Student Council president and confirmed by a majority vote in the Representative Body. 

Fourth-year College student Alaina Robinson, the chair of Student Council’s Community Relations Committee, outlined the primary goal of founding the food pantry. 

“What we’re trying to do is make sure we have enough non-perishable goods in the Runk Green Room that students who need access to them, have access to them,” Robinson said. 

This article has been updated to accurately reflect the Student Activity Fee funding changes.

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