Views expressed in opinion columns are the authors’ own.
The University of Maryland’s Graduate Student Government should be the steward to all graduate students. Passing the Budget Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility Act and amending the GSG bylaws will help to achieve this goal.
Each semester, graduate students pay a $17.50 student activities fee, and a portion of this money is used to fund the operations of the GSG. The use of these funds requires the wisdom of the individuals who represent all graduate students; GSG has the tremendous responsibility to use this fund with care.
However, previous GSG administrations have shown a lack of accountability and fiscal responsibility that failed all of us. Budget overruns and irregular spending have created significant financial problems that reflect poorly on GSG as stewards of graduate students’ interest. We took decisive actions to remedy the situation last semester and held relevant individuals accountable.
Change is underway, and we need to institutionalize the remedy and ensure that reckless spending and budget overrun will not happen again. If we do not amend the GSG bylaws, we will end up in the same budget overrun position. I ask my fellow GSG representatives to support my bill to enhance budget transparency and fiscal responsibility.
Sunshine is the cure for darkness, and transparency is the cure for waste, fraud and abuse in a governing body. Increasing budget transparency is a priority in my bill. If you visit the GSG website, you will not have access to the latest budget for fiscal 2018 — or fiscal 2017. The last budget update is from fiscal 2016. I propose bylaw amendments to require GSG to disclose its operating budget on the GSG website after its passage or after budget revisions have been made.
Under the leadership of the financial affairs vice president, the GSG Budget and Finance Committee is actively involved in all GSG financing decisions to ensure appropriate spending. Joint committed supervision is valuable for the fiscal health of the GSG.
However, under current GSG bylaws, the Budget and Finance Committee’s input is not mandatory in the budget crafting process. It is essential to have the input of GSG program representatives during this process to ensure checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches. The Budget Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility Act will address this issue by requiring the committee’s input during this budgeting process.
There are several GSG staff members who work for hourly wages and tirelessly contribute their energy and passion to our student body. But GSG bylaws do not state the hourly wage rate for those staff members. High hourly wages and long shifts have driven budget overruns in previous administrations. The Budget Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility Act addresses this issue by regulating the hourly wage rate and setting a “hard cap” for all GSG members’ compensation.
While passing the Budget Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility Act will not solve all budget problems, it is an important step to rebuild GSG’s image and restore graduate students’ confidence. Let’s pass this bill and build a transparent GSG together. Ask your program representatives to vote “yes” for the Budget Transparency and Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Liule Han is a master’s student in the business school. He can be reached email@example.com.