Following nearly a month of presentations and discussion, the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors approved the organization’s budget for the next academic year by a one-vote margin on April 23. The board approved the budget despite disagreements concerning funds being used by ASI’s scuba program which threatened to sink the budget’s approval.
Specifically, senators debated the amount of money that ASI provides for each student who participates in the scuba program’s out-of-state trips which outnumbers the funds normally appropriated to students participating in other off-campus events.
Questions over the scuba program’s travel funding began in the previous board meeting on April 16 when ASI Vice President Rachel Hunter, a fourth-year political science student, asked Director of Recreation Krista Smith about the demand for the scuba program “considering the $80,000 increase for new trips.”
Following that initial inquiry, a joint presentation on the background and growth of the scuba program was delivered by Interim Director of Organizational Development and Assessment Ginny Templeton as well as Scuba Dive Center Coordinator Doug Hayes during the beginning of the April 23 meeting.
In the presentation, Templeton touted Cal Poly Pomona as one of only three universities in the country to have a dive center in partnership with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the program’s consistent growth in participation since its establishment.
Templeton also provided justification for out-of-state trips, saying, “Diving in different environments gives you a different type of experience and allows us to be able to provide specialty certifications that we might not be able to have in Southern California in the colder waters.”
As far as budgetary increases, Hayes said, “We’ve increased our in-state expenses by $36,000, but we’ve also increased our revenue by $18,000 …. We’ve increased our out-of-state (expenses) by $44,000, but we’ve also increased the revenue by $22,000.”
Still, once the approval of the budget was on the table, Collins College Senator and ASI President-Elect Lucy Yu introduced an amendment to the budget that would cut $96,700 from the scuba program’s budget, its total allocation for out-of-state travel funds.
With the amendment seconded by ASI President Pasindu Senaratne, the amendment was up for discussion.
Yu, a third-year hospitality management student, said the out-of-state travel organized by the scuba program amounted to $1,375 per student, paid by ASI.
“I, as a board member, didn’t see the usefulness of doing this,” Yu said. “I don’t think that we should be spending that much of our student fees toward something like that. So I kind of wanted to open up that conversation to the board to see what everybody thought.”
ASI Executive Director Liz Roosa Millar commented on Yu’s amendment, saying that reducing the scuba program’s out-of-state travel funding may have an impact on the rest of the program outside of just out-of-state travel.
Senaratne, a fourth-year business student, spoke in favor of Yu’s amendment. Senaratne pointed out that currently, ASI provides about $750 per student to travel to events such as conferences. The scuba program, on the other hand, requires $1,375 per student diver on out-of-state trips. “Really this conversation is more about, ‘Are we comfortable approving $1,375 a person for them to go out of state to get this experience?’ Whereas, comparatively, we’re paying $325 a person for the in-state experience.” To this point, Senaratne indicated that he would be open to increasing funding for in-state travel.
Smith spoke in favor of the out-of-state trips, stating that because they are weeklong trips, “it’s like going on three in-state trips.” Smith added that out-of-state trips provide more opportunities for students, including three PADI certifications that wouldn’t be available in Southern California’s cold-water dives.
Smith also noted that if the board wanted, there could be budget model presentations that addressed some of the concerns members had about the scuba program funding, warning that simply cutting the program’s budget by the proposed amount could impact the program’s revenue as well.
Following the discussion on Yu’s amendment, it was up to the members for a vote. Prior to voting, Hunter told the members that if they wished to see the presentations Smith offered, they would vote “no” on the amendment. With this caveat in place, the board unanimously disapproved of the amendment with a vote of 0-12.
However, after the vote on the amendment, Agriculture Senator Delilah Orta motioned to approve the proposed budget without any cuts to the scuba program’s proposed budget and without any of the budget model presentations offered by Smith.
With the motion seconded by College of Letters Arts and Social Sciences Senator Alexis Ruiz, the board was set to vote on the budget’s final approval.
Originally, the motion to approve the budget stood at a split 6-6 vote with Student Interest Council Senator-at-Large Micah Parker temporarily being disconnected from the Zoom call. Once Parker reconnected, she voted in favor of the motion, resulting in a razor-thin 7-6 vote to approve the 2020-2021 ASI budget.
With the budget now approved by the board, it will move forward to CPP President Soraya M. Coley for her final approval.
“I’m excited for next year and the initiatives that ASI will be able to pursue because of the passed budget,” Hunter said, reflecting on the budget’s passage. “Although we don’t know how next year will shape up considering the circumstances, I am hopeful that with this budget, ASI will have the resources to adapt to still improve the lives of students.”