SAFB discourse during 2023 OUSC elections

Photo courtesy of Oakland University Student Congress

Photo courtesy of Oakland University Student Congress

During the recent debates for Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) president and vice president, a big topic of discussion was the relationship between OUSC and the Student Activities Funding Board (SAFB).

Currently, both organizations are separate entities within the Student Activity Fund Assessment Committee (SAFAC). However, the president of OUSC appoints the chair of SAFB as well as OUSC acts as the legislative body for SAFB to hold it accountable.

SAFAC controls hundreds of thousands of dollars to spread amongst the eight organizations within it. This pool of money comes from the tuition dollars of students at OU. As it sits, SAFB is tied with the Student Program Board for receiving the most money at 27% while OUSC is third receiving 15%.

First occurring at the vice-presidential debate, the chair of SAFB, Maris Ferguson of the Farooqi Ferguson Slate, said she wants OUSC and SAFB to continue this relationship while Amir Mitchell of the Gojcaj Mitchell Slate said they should be completely separate.

“If there are cases when SAFB is becoming out of control or needs to be ringed in, this is what OUSC’s job is. The legislative body is meant to hold SAFB accountable,” Ferguson said. “I don’t understand how the separation of OUSC and SAFB would help any kind of bias situation coming in SAFB because frankly, this is what OUSC is meant to do. It can’t be separated.”

While Mitchell agreed there should be someone who holds them accountable, he questioned whether certain organizations receive bypasses and others do not. Another area of concern is having the OUSC president sitting in on meetings.

“What I don’t agree with is having our president sitting in meetings, funding meetings, budget approvals, and having an inappropriate amount of influence towards these organizations who just want to do what their hobbies are,” Mitchell said.

With this, the president is an ex-officio member of the SAFB board who is also the supervisor of the SAFB chair. Despite the discussion of separation, Ferguson shared her sentiments with orgs who don’t receive funding.

“My heart hurts for those organizations that are still struggling and I know as a student org leader, how important it’s that we all get this funding because it’s vital to keeping our organizations alive,” she said. “I know that it’s important to keep all organizations on an equal playing field when it comes to funding so that those that are doing they’re due diligence are getting the funding they deserve.”

She also stated there is more funding available than in the history of SAFB, which sits at $558,917.99 as of March 31, due to current administration. It is important to note SAFB still received funding during COVID-19 and was able to stockpile funding during that time.

The topic continued the following day at the presidential debate, where the point was brought up with the Meadow Brook Ball. Presidential candidate Joshua Kobus asked fellow candidates Murryum Farooqi and Josef Gojcaj their thoughts on the importance of funding long-standing traditions such as Meadow Brook Ball.

Gojcaj said it was important to ensure all students and organizations are equitably funded. Farooqi responded saying the issue with the Ball is it asks for funding and then charges students for a ticket.

“They’re charging students, you have to pay to get into this event, but then they’re asking for funding from SAFB, which is tuition dollars,” Farooqi said. “SAFB has a policy in their bylaws that says you cannot, that’s like a scam at that point you can’t fund an organization, you can’t get funding and then charge people.”

In the end, Meadow Brook Ball did receive funding from SPB. 

Kobus brought up conflicts of interest for the president of OUSC, who is the treasurer for Swifties of Oakland University. In a rebuttal, Farooqi would restate the policy where if a member of SAFB is on the e-board of another club they cannot vote.

Later on, Gojcaj asked about the number of denials and whether the rate of denials has increased or decreased. At this point, Ferguson would say the answer from the audience, stating there was a 17% denial rate.

Both Gojcaj and Farooqi said they don’t want complete separation of SAFB and OUSC, with Gojcaj wanting to make the process of hiring the SAFB chair more strict. On the other hand, Kobus said he is for complete separation as he said it is the only way to avoid corruption.