ISS should be defunded for wasteful spending


By Brad Barber

One of the founding principles of our society is that if you have been bad, you may get something taken away. This is true when it comes to parenting: If you have been irresponsible with your car, cellphone, computer, etc., your parents may take it away. 

This is true with freedoms: If you act in a prohibited manner, your personal freedom may be taken away by the criminal justice systems. 

No matter what the aspect of life, this is likely true. 

The Illinois Student Senate has been bad with their funds, so it is time to take them away.

A recent student referendum was launched with the goal of defunding ISS. The referendum proposes that the funds currently allocated to ISS should be reallocated to the University’s General Scholarship Fund.

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    The referendum needs to be signed by seven percent of the student body (about 3,000 signatures) before Feb. 25 at 5 p.m. to get this initiative on the Spring 2014 election ballot, which all University students vote on.

    If on the ballot and passed, the proposition would prevent future ISS fiscal irresponsibility, while giving financial support to students that need it.  

    ISS is designed to make the campus better for all students and serve as a voice for the student body to the administration and government. However, the debate is not if it accomplished these goals, but if it spent its money properly in pursuit of these goals. 

    There are plenty of examples of ISS waste, though the primary examples include thousands of dollars in advertising — plastic cups, string-bags, a homecoming float — and travel expenses. When reviewing the ISS budget, I did not see one example of something I considered a truly positive expenditure. 

    Many students will sign this petition because they think the ISS has been especially wasteful and deserves to have the ability to be so removed. 

    However, I signed this referendum for a different reason. 

    I believe ISS operates under some version of the “check the balance” principle — if there are funds not spent, there are funds not needed. This principle pressures those in charge of spending — in this case, ISS — into spending as much of their allotted money as possible so that the cash source will not be the subject of administrative attacks in future years. There is nothing for the University to take, or no reason for the University to lower student fees if there is no or little surplus funds.  

    This principle is very destructive and nonproductive. It creates a disincentive to be as efficient and conservative with appropriated funds, and any efficiency is accompanied by “waste” — which I define as expenditures not approved, not actual waste — because the spenders want as much to spend as possible. 

    For ISS, this would mean spending money on wasteful expenditures — such as advertising — despite if there is a need for a plastic cup with their logo on it. 

    This referendum would establish a system of punishment and reward. When agencies, departments or individuals have shown to be prudent or productive, they should be rewarded. Rewarded does not mean that they be given a prize, but rewarded with more responsibility and more money. 

    However, if the spender has not exhibited these principles, they should be punished. The punishment is for wasting resources, and incorporates a subjective “bad” element into the equation, rather than just an objective “balance” element. Punishment does not mean that you are permanently punished or completely punished, but instills the idea that an action not deemed appropriate by those that govern you (in this case, the students) will not be tolerated. 

    In extreme cases of gross misconduct, punishment should be complete. That way there is no potential for future misconduct of a similar, equal or worse nature.  

    This petition would create a system that would inspire ISS to only take actions that would be approved by the students. 

    Keep in mind that, if the proposition makes the ballot and the student body passes the ballot, this proposition does not have to be permanent. We could decide to reallocate funds back to ISS next year. 

    This petition does not take away all of the funding for ISS, but it would bring the issue to the ballot. This would give the students the chance to exercise their power of judgment over the actions of ISS, and remind ISS of the will of the body they serve when they execute spending decisions. 

    We need to decide if ISS wasted money and we need to decide if they will be rewarded or punished for their waste. Bring this issue to the ballot by signing the referendum today.

    Brad is a graduate student in Law. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @B_rad_barber.