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Carleton EMT’s budget request denied, continues debate concerning student funding and “personal property”

<nday, the CSA Senate narrowly voted to reject an appeal for a $116 bid made by the Carleton Emergency Medical Technicians (Carleton EMTs). After considerable debate, the body came one vote short of reversing a Budget Committee decision to deny transportation funding for four student EMTs to participate in a ride-along program with Faribault ambulances.

The Senate debate focused on a common sticking point for student funding issues, a CSA bylaw preventing the senate from using student money to purchase “personal property.” According to Senator Tim Foran ’09, Budget Committee has a precedent of including marketable work experience under “personal property,” and not funding activities that students are likely to put on resumes. As he explained after the meeting:

“It is analogous to paying for a trip to go job shadow or intern.
They’re both paying for someone to go and accumulate experience that, as [Carleton EMTs President] Andrew Widner [’09] said in the Senate, is for resume building.”

In past years, CSA’s reluctance to fund pre-professional groups has affected groups like the Minority Students Pre-Health Coalition and Women in Math and Science.

But Widner ’09 disagreed with the classification of his group as a pre-professional association. He described the Carleton EMTs as a social and resource group for students who have taken, or who are interested in taking the two-term EMT-Basic course taught on campus. After the meeting he pointed out that although EMT-Basic certification is a useful prerequisite for a career as a paramedic, many students just want to be prepared for medical emergencies:

“What the group is not is a pre-professional organization” he said. “This isn’t a matter of building up skills to pursue a career in emergency medicine. I don’t know of anyone in the group who wants to be a paramedic for life.”

The debate has ramifications beyond the pre-professional issue. CSA Tresuer Sam Ritter ‘10 described this bid as a part of a larger discussion about student organizations that take student money off campus. Groups requesting funding to do volunteer work, attend conferences, or participate in off-campus competitions present a challenge for Budget Committee because they challenge the committee’s goal of maximizing the influence of student funds by keeping them on campus:

“Because this is the students’ money, the more of it we can keep on campus the better is the logic” he explained.

However, in the case of the EMTs, Ritter originally voted to fund the ambulance ride-alongs because the group’s charter mentions performing volunteer work as a fundamental goal of the group. Ritter argued that the CSA had an obligation to help the chartered organization perform its basic function. But the majority of Budget Committee was doubtful that ambulance ride-alongs should be considered volunteer work. As Foran explained at the Senate meeting:

“[The Budget Committee] decided this wasn’t volunteer work because the students weren’t volunteering but sitting in ambulances and accruing experience.”

Budget Committee’s arguments proved just strong enough to avoid being overruled by a two-thirds Senate majority. Ritter ended up voting against the EMTs’ appeal in deference to the decision-making power of Budget Committee.

In the absence of CSA funding, the Carleton EMTs are looking for other ways to pay for their ride-alongs. One option that came up during the Senate meeting is the Wellness Center: Senator Charlotte Turovsky ’11 mentioned that Senate’s Wellness Center Committee is looking into creating an EMT program to serve the campus. Widener has also said that the EMT’s expect to get at least partial funding from the Career Center.

After the meeting, Ritter that he hopes that some of difficult decisions that Budget Committee has encountered in funding volunteer organizations will be made easier by the establishment of line item funding for the Act Center in this year’s Spring Allocations. The line item budget will function like the annual budget given to Club Sports: CSA’s contribution to the ACT Center budget will allow student organizations with volunteer components to apply for CSA money though the ACT Center instead of through the Senate Budget Committee.

“This is exactly why we are giving the ACT Center this line item” Ritter said “so that the Budget Committee doesn’t have to navigate this messy situation. . . . We are trying to maximize money so that it has the most effect for the most people on campus; the ACT Center with their funding can be me more about getting off-campus experience.”

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