The “executive board” of SC4’s Student Government recently spent over $7000 to attend the “National Center for Student Leadership” conference, in Lake Buena Vista Florida from Nov. 3 to 5. The executive board consists of President Charles King, Vice President Rachel Kobylas, Secretary Kaitlyn Graw, and Treasurer Jonathan Brewer. Their advisor, Carrie Bearss, accompanied the four on the trip.
The executive board participated in workshops and seminars to help build leadership skills.
King (who attended the conference last year as well) said during an All-Club meeting Nov. 10, “Since I was already a certified leader, some of this stuff was really redundant for me.” The conference the executive board attended last year was held in Washington D.C.
Frequently, through the all-club meeting, King conferred with the other officers about the details of what had occurred during the program.
“And then they had to pick a group,”started King as he turned to the other officers to check his facts during a report on the conference during the meeting. “Did you guys pick a group or were you just randomly put in a group? – Randomly put in a group.”
“It was a perk for the fact is was in Florida and not Detroit,” King said during the meeting in regards to the conference.
The student government officers admit that the trip wasn’t cheap.
The five members spent 4 nights at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, one of Disney’s more expensive hotels.
According to Carrie Bearss, SC4’s Registrar, during the conference the cost of the hotel rooms was $159 per night, with two people per room. According to the Student Government account details, the total cost of the hotel reservations was $2,160. Admission to the conference itself was $529 per person. The optional “Certified Student Leader Program” (in which 3 members participated) cost an additional $130 per person.
According to a December treasurer’s report, airfare cost $1122 for the group, and per diem (spelled “perdium” in the treasurer’s report, which is food expenses according to Bearss) cost $840.
At the time of printing, the minimum cost of the trip was $7154. According to Bearss the price is still not totaled. “We went through a travel agent to get the very best cost.” said Bearss. “Flight tickets were like 200 bucks round trip, baggage was extra, so yeah, it’s expensive when you start adding it up.”
Not accounted in the total are airline baggage costs, airport parking, and car mileage, which according to the Student Government Club Account Detail records is over $650.
According to the NCSL website, anyone is able to be trained and recieve the same certification online for $129 (and groups for as low as $69 per person). At least 100 students could have recieved the online training and certification for the same cost, the equivallent of 5 members from each of the 17 clubs on campus recieving the training.
The website also offers a 24 compact disc set featuring the programs available at the conference for $999. The site also explains that the programs can be used for the entire student body, and used repeatedly.
The site also reads: “The Complete Student Leadership Library is a resource you can make available to your current student leaders, and those who are being groomed to succeed them. It’s also one you can share with the entire campus… student government, clubs and teams, Greek organizations, service-learning groups, and more. And lastly, it’s something you can use for years to come, as new students join the fold… you can train each new group of leaders to pick up where their predecessors left off.”
The cost of this program online is less than the cost of the conference tickets of the four executive board members.
In an interview prior to leaving for the trip, Vice President Kobylas claimed that the executive board was paying for the trip through “fundraising and appropriations.”
Carrie Bearss said “Not all of the funds for this trip came from fundraising. Some of that is money earmarked for use of the Student Government Executive Board.”
During the treasurer’s report, it was revealed that the money is being drawn from the student club funds.
Jonathon Brewer delivered the treasurer’s report during the November 10 All-Club meeting. The following is a transcript of the treasurer’s report as it was delivered:
“This past month… our expenditures… we’ve had miscellaneous credits versus expenditures. We’ve finally had appropriations which came through this month, so that credit was applied. But we also have, um, these coming out very readily… our trips to the National Center for Leadership – Student Leadership – those keep coming out in small portions, so right now we’re sitting at $14,517.14.”
During the all-club meeting Nov. 10, Jillian Roggenbuck of the Women’s Soccer Club asked if other clubs would be able to go with executive board on the trip next time around. King said that it would be a matter of budgeting. “We’re gonna have to look at some serious fundraising to make it happen,” said King.
According to the treasurer’s report from Dec. 1, Student Government officers rose $70 total from the sales of Younkers coupons in the Fall semester.
“We went through the process to get everything approved,” said Bearss. “You need to be careful when comparing Student Government to other clubs as well. This is a governing board. These are scholarshiped executive officers who also have the Student Government funds, and the approval of administration to attend these conferences. You’re not comparing apples to apples in this case.”
According to the NCSL website, institutions the size of SC4 are few and far between at the conference. Many of those listed in attendance are either more local community colleges (ones which would not require airfare), well-endowed institutions, or large universities.
“Some of these colleges are four-year universities, some have fifty, sixty-thousand students, some of these have a thousand or three-thousand clubs on campus,” said King during the Nov. 11 all-club meeting. “Huge! Okay? And we’re talking we’re here in St. Clair County and we’ve got 5,000 people. Honestly I think I ran into a college that had 3,500.”
Prior to departing for the conference, Vice President Kobylas said that there would not be much “free time,” but NCSL and Facebook say otherwise.
Under the “frequently asked questions” of the NCSL website, it is stated that conference-goers will have free time. Throughout the conference, Student Government officers and the NCSL were posting on their Facebook pages detailing their various activities, including visits to Seaworld, Universal Studios, Downtown Disney and other locations.
Photos from the conference itself show officers playing “rock, paper, scissors.” Another photo posted by one of the officers shows Kobylas and Graw posing with a shirtless actor and another in a bar. The NCSL had scheduled the conference this way intentionally. The site reads: “On Friday, the conference program will conclude at 3:00 p.m. This gives you a whole evening to yourself.”
Carrie Bearss says that she, as the Student Government advisor, requires that the executive board “implement a program by the end of the school year.” Last year, the executive board implemented the “Mentor the Mentor Program,” and the “Student Government Radio Hour” on WSGR.
According to Dale Merrill, the WSGR Program Director, the radio hour has not been done once through the entire Fall semester. “WSGR has a time slot for a radio show for a forum for student government but no one has stepped up to do the show this semester,” said Merrill.
Clubs have had minimal contact with their “mentors.”
Doug Johnson, the acting President of the Zombie Defense Council commented on Jonathan Brewer’s involvement in club meetings for the program. “I’ve never seen him at our Tuesday meetings, nor have I heard him attend our Wednesday meetings except for the first time when he was told to.”
Twana Pinskey, the Editor-in-Chief of the Erie Square Gazette said “to the best of my knowledge, our mentor has never shown up to any of our meetings.”
Jonathan Lucas, the Vice President of the Gay-Straight Alliance said that the GSA’s mentor Kaitlyn Graw has attended 2 of the GSA’s meetings. Lucas said he feels it is “somewhat beneficial because it allows for smoother communication.”
Stacy Desimone, President of SC4’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, said that Secretary Graw, PTK’s mentor, “showed up to one meeting for about 10 minutes. You can tell she didn’t want to be there.”