Student senate funding more than ever

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The Dixie State University student senate has been passing a record number of bills in the 2014-15 school year in an attempt to increase its influence on campus and reach out to more students.

The senate’s job is to help fund projects, equipment and activities for all of the academic departments.

There are eight senators representing academic departments for the senate. Samantha Tommer, a senior integrated studies major from La Habra, California, is the vice president of academics and is over the DSU student senate.  

There have been 21 bills passed so far this year, totaling $24,865. The senate passed 27 bills last year and spent a total of $21,283. This money helped finance bills like sending students to the American Chemical Society Conference in Denver, buying posters for seniors’ capstone projects, research for the physical sciences department, and buying new cameras for the Dixie Sun News.

“We still have $11,000 left in our budget for this year,” Tommer said. “So we are well on our way for breaking some records.”

The money for the senate bills comes entirely from student fees paid at the beginning of each semester.

85 percent to 90 percent of the senate budget funds goes directly toward funding the bills, 5 percent to 8 percent is used for senate events like advertisements and promotions, and the remainder goes to operational costs, said Jordon Sharp, DSU director of student involvement and leadership.

“Any funds that are not used after the school year revert back to the main DSUSA account,” Sharp said.

The money is watched closely on all fronts to make sure there is no foul play in getting a bill passed, Tommer said.

“I take the student fees very seriously because I have to pay them too,” Tommer said. “It’s a very lengthy process of checking, double checking, and triple checking to get a bill passed.”

The bill must be signed off by the department senator, two investigators within the senate, Tommer, the student body president, Sharp, and dean of students before the students can touch the money to make sure all the fiscal claims and information is accurate.     

Although the process is straight-forward and helpful for students, it is often challenging to receive the money and can be time-consuming, said Skyler Hunt, a senior communication major from St. George. Hunt is receiving funds from the senate to go to a conference in April.

“In my situation, I’m being reimbursed a certain percentage only after paying each fee in full, which can be difficult for some students,” Hunt said. “But I’m incredibly grateful for [the senate]. Getting to this conference would have been difficult and significantly more stressful without them.”

The senate has been hosting events like Meet Your Senator Breakfast each month and Legislative Day competitions to try to get more students reaching out to the senate for funding.

Legislative Day is a competition for senate funds and has been organized twice before. It has been successful in receiving multiple applicants, Tommer said. However, the Legislative Day planned for March 2 has been canceled because individual bills have been “booming” and coming in faster than the senate had planned, Tommer said.

“My hope is that more students will reach out to their senator and ask for funding,” Tommer said. “We’re here for the students and want their money to go back to them to help them accomplish their academic goals.”