executive board

Global Medical Brigades denied additional funding for medical mission trip

PRESIDENT SRUJA MACHANI '20 AND TREASURER THILAKA ARUNACHALAM '19 PRESENT about their need for additional subsidy.

The Executive Board broke precedent on Thursday when it failed a motion to give Global Medical Brigades an additional $900 toward bus transportation to the airport for its medical mission trip to Honduras.

This trip will cost each of the 11 participating students approximately $2,000 to cover airfare, lodging, food, and in-country transportation. In order to abide by the Rensselaer Union Guidelines & Procedures policy which specifies that the activity fee should not be used as a “direct or indirect donation to charity,” no other aspects of the club’s trip are funded.

Last year’s bus tickets were fully subsidized by the Executive Board. This was an exception to the policy of subsidizing club travel at a maximum of 40 percent, which can be made on a case-by-case basis. Last year, the Board made an exception because the personal cost was so high that it would have taken money away from other aspects of the trip, like paying for medications to take with them.

The cost of bus tickets was originally fully subsidized in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, but the cost of tickets increased after the budget was finalized. Representatives of the Global Medical Brigades came before the Board to ask for additional $900—bringing the total cost to $1,600—in subsidy to account for this increase. They explained that this change in prices was made and fully approved in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget—which would pay for the trip next year—during budgeting conducted by this same Executive Board in Fall 2018.

Gabrielle Gentile, the club’s E-Board representative, began by sharing that the treasurer has “not been great at planning” and was unresponsive to emails about this proposal. She detailed a story in which members of the club asked her to go to the Union within minutes of the close-of-business in bad weather to sign a form that was due that day. “I personally don’t want to give them this money. I don’t think they should get it,” she expressed.

Policies Committee Chairperson David Raab ’19 reiterated that clubs that don’t communicate shouldn’t be rewarded. Business Operations Chairperson Brian Mansaku ’20 said that funding the bus trip is basically donating money anyway, which violates the Union policy.

“We’ve put money towards things that are less useful,” said Club and Organization Representative Cody Kazakoff. He felt that the club shouldn’t be punished and that it had a good reason to want this subsidy. Gentile responded that it is a “good cause,” but that if its members “truly wanted to do this” then they would’ve done more to show that.

Member-at-Large Ryan Delaney ’21 disagreed with the subsidy on the basis of the typical 40/60 percent split. Some time was spent figuring out how much they had subsidized in the past, and it was determined that the $700 already given in the budget would have already exceeded 40/60 percent split of the total $1,600.

Club and Organization Representative Charles Omoregbee ’21 asked Gentile if she had talked to the officers about these issues, to which Gentile responded “never directly.” She attributed this to the officer’s “ridiculous” schedule. Omoregbee said that punishing everyone on the club wouldn’t solve anything; he then made some unclear comments, and President of the Union Justin Etzine ’18 G ’19 asked if he was suggesting putting the club on probation, to which Omoregbee said “yes.” 

After questions and discussion about what “probation” actually meant, they decided that it wasn’t appropriate for the club. The members of this E-Board voted to put Rensselyrics on probation in September, and had similar conversations then.

The motion to approve the reallocation of $900 from the Fiscal Year 2019 travel contingencies fund for the purpose of buses failed 6-7-3.

Omoregbee, Club and Organization Representative Rachel Antmann ’19, and Graduate Council Representative David Hontz abstained. When asked why, both Antmann and Hontz said that they couldn’t decide. Omoregbee felt that the Board could’ve come to a better decision about how to approach the club’s travel issue.  

When the club came back into the room, Etzine said that the motion had failed and yielded to Gentile to explain. She said that the Board typically doesn’t fund the entire travel cost, and “that was the gist of it.” She then stepped outside with the club.

Later in the meeting, during a break in business, members of the Board were talking about the Global Medical Brigades decision and some were laughing. Member-at-Large Representative Vish Gopalakrishnan ’20 expressed that putting them on probation would have been like “kicking a puppy,” since the club was unaware of any of the issues. “Their treasurer looked like she was about to cry,” added Member-at-Large Yaseen Mahmoud ’22.