Danny Reinan, staff writer
A student body referendum was set into motion – only the second in the history of Augsburg Day Student Government (ADSG)–this Monday and Tuesday, concerning the commissioning of Augsburg University Student Ministries (AUSM), a student organization centered on faith-informed service and community-building that has existed since before 2000. At the commissioning hearings on Sunday, Feb. 23, AUSM was denied the opportunity to apply for a budget when they arrived late to their appointed time to present for re-commissioning. The referendum that followed, which aimed to overturn the decision that ADSG had come to, has quickly gained campus-wide attention.
Last December, ADSG began to set up appointments for student organizations that want to be commissioned in the 2020-2021 school year to present to the ADSG’s Chartering and Commission Committee. A lot is riding on this presentation for student organizations, as they must demonstrate the contributions they have made to Augsburg, outline how they previously used their budget and explain what they plan to use their budget for during the next year. Organizations decommissioned following their presentations are not disbanded, but they can only receive funding through grants.
Unbeknownst to AUSM, while they were coordinating this meeting, a mishap occurred.
“The majority of the Deacon board was at a conference in California where we were representing Augsburg,” explained Ian Heseltine, Student Deacon and Co-President of AUSM. This caused a problem when the Deacons put the event into their shared calendars, as their computer was operating in Pacific Standard Time. AUSM was unaware of this mistake until the day came for them to present. Heseltine says that he rushed over as soon as he was contacted after AUSM missed their scheduled meeting time..
According to ADSG bylaws, Brittany Stokes, the chair of the Chartering and Commissioning Committee, had the opportunity to decide whether or not to allow AUSM to present. Stokes decided to turn the decision over to a secret ballot voted on by the committee. “The vote came back 5 for and 6 against letting them present,” said Stokes. “Therefore, AUSM was barred from presenting.”
It seems like AUSM’s tardiness weighed heavily on the committee. “…The consensus was that it was gravely unprofessional for AUSM to be late and that their excuse for their absence did not make sense,” explained Stokes. “The fact that every other student organization was on time, many early, also factored into the vote.”
Although decommissioned organizations are still able to request funding through grants, AUSM hosts many events that they say are difficult to coordinate without a budget. Such events include the Fall Block Party and Alternative Spring Break, which invites students to embark on a community service study away experience over spring break. AUSM members relayed that they’d previously had mixed experiences with ADSG when it came to receiving grants, and that they worry that the timeline of submitting grant requests would make it difficult to effectively plan events in advance.
“We take responsibility for being late,” said Heseltine. “We’re eager to work with ADSG to reach a solution,”
AUSM was told by ADSG that they could not appeal the decision, but Heseltine found a route through which the decision might be overturned–by submitting a petition for a day student body resolution. In order to have the opportunity to appeal the decision, AUSM’s petition would need to receive backing from 10 percent of the student body, or 195 students. AUSM surpassed this goal, turning in a petition with 255 signatures.
“Seeing the support on paper was gratifying,” said Shevon Greene, Student Deacon and Marketing Coordinator of AUSM.
The referendum was sent out to all day students via email on Monday morning and was open until the end of the day on Tuesday. The referendum used language collectively agreed upon by both AUSM and ADSG, outlining the basics of the situation and explaining that “AUSM acknowledges that this error was theirs and not on account of the Chartering & Commissioning Committee but would still like a chance to present.” The referendum required a two-thirds majority in order to overturn ADSG’s decision, giving AUSM the opportunity to present for re-commissioning. If the referendum had failed, AUSM would have automatically been demoted to a chartered organization.
On Wednesday, March 4th, the members of AUSM were notified that the referendum passed the student body and AUSM was allowed to make their case for a budget that evening. As of press time, no budget information has been released for any student organization.
“I’m proud of how our campus has come together to support an organization that people see but may not participate in,” said Heseltine.