SGA driving program hits bumps



The UK Student Government Senate’s first meeting of the year involved speed bumps and detours from beginning to end, largely because of the proposed late-night student driving program.

Good news came in the form of a $95,825 surplus carried over from the last fiscal year, as stated on the budget spreadsheet, but that optimistic trend didn’t continue.

Senators sifting through the budget noticed an $85,000 allocation for the Student Driver Program, a late-night driving service aimed at providing on- and off-campus students free, safe transportation to and from downtown Lexington and UK campus locations

Many senators said they were hearing about it for the first time. Others said they had only recently heard about the proposition.

The funds required for the program make up roughly 17 percent of the total budget, according to the budget spreadsheet reviewed at the meeting. The spreadsheet shows that the driving program is the second highest expense proposed.

The proposed expense became the cause of much debate in the meeting room, with little consensus for one side of the other.

While many favored the program, others remained skeptical because of the lack of information presented about the program prior to the meeting.

Questions were raised about whether or not the service would become a “drunk bus” for transporting intoxicated students around the city.

A lack of information proved to be the largest obstacle facing the driving program, SG senate president Micah Fielden said.

During debate, an amendment was purposed that, if the budget were passed, the $85,000 for the student driver program would be set aside untouched for one week, giving the senate time to review the program’s details and to debate over it. The amendment passed 12-11.

But the senate’s work was hardly over.

It took a total of three hours of debate and inquiry before the budget was put to a vote. The budget with the amendment passed 16-5 with two abstentions.

Even then, not everyone was satisfied.

“I have reservations about passing a budget without a program we’ve invested a lot of time in,” SG president Ryan Smith said.

As president, Smith has the authority to veto the budget, after which he would resort to issuing an executive order to release funds for all other student organizations. Otherwise, the senate would reconvene Sept. 15 to vote on using the allocated funds for the program or not.

One senator noted that it was imperative to pass the budget so that all the other organizations requiring funds from SG would be able to begin using those funds as soon as possible.

But a two-week hiatus from the issue presents problems for the program’s anticipated Sept. 30 launch, Smith said.

“The program will happen, but it’s just a matter of how it’s going to happen,” Smith said. “We need to make a decision really quickly.”

SG Deputy Chief of Campus Issues Max Stefka worked over the summer with UK administration and LexTran officials to negotiate a contract and details for the driving program. If passed, the contract would guarantee the program’s place in the UK community for at least one year.

“I see the driving program as something that can save lives and prevent injuries on our campus. It has proven to be successful at other schools,” Smith said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to make this thing happen.”

Student government would provide most of the funding for this program, with additional monetary support from the administration, Smith said.

“There are not other ways of funding it beyond SG,” he said.

Funds for the driving program come primarily from $1.57 per student per semester in student fees, one senator noted.

Aside from the driving program, other orders of business included presidential appointments: Calvin Riney was approved as Deputy Chief of Staff of Communications, Jaclyn Hawkins as Deputy Chief of Staff for Organizational Outreach, Anna Hays as Deputy Chief of Programming, Max Stefka as Deputy Chief of Campus Issues and Stephen Bilas as Student Government Comptroller.

Other issues addressed include funding for the Tally Cats program, which was debated based on its success during the 2009-2010 school year in getting students involved in on-campus activities, the Wildcat Wheels bicycle rental program, salary additions and increases, SG website renovations and the creation of scholarship funds from donations by SG alumni from around the state.