Editor's note: A previous version of this story did not contain RIC President, Dr. Jack Warner's responses to questions about the operating agreement and additional topics. Those responses have since been received by The Anchor as of Monday, Feb. 27 and added to this story.
The ending to months of negotiations for an operating agreement between RIC and Student Community Government appears to be close.
This agreement being signed is one of the terms and conditions RIC President, Dr. Jack Warner has for SCG before the organization gets back their Spring 2022 deposit.
“We’re looking to get it done by two weeks, hopefully,” James Torres, president of SCG, told The Anchor in a post-parliament meeting interview. “We’re meeting on Sunday, our lawyer is going to be coming in as well. So, we can get that done and then we can shoot it back to the lawyers for the school. If we’re in agreement, we’re going to sit together, we’re going to try to set up a meeting with them and us as well and we can all sit there together and we’re going to get it done that day, hopefully.”
Three current terms are public about this agreement from prior interviews. Those terms are defining what SCG and RIC’s relationship is, having it in writing SCG would only need 11 members for quorum and employees of SCG would become college employees.
The aforementioned funding was first frozen by then-President of RIC, Frank D. Sánchez, where he cited that SCG wasn’t meeting its bylaws regarding quorum. If the funding were to be given back to SCG, it can provide some breathing room as all the organizations on campus are facing budget cuts due to RIC’s declining enrollment.
Once both parties, RIC and SCG, agree to terms for this agreement, it will require Torres’ signature before it takes effect. Torres explained what he would like to see happen when that time comes.
“What I want to happen is I want to sign it here at parliament,” Torres said. “So we’ll have the faculty or the school come here and we’ll sign it here and we’ll do it live in front of the cameras. That would be something great and we could have the students here as well.”
Torres wasn’t 100% sure if students and the rest of parliament would be able to publicly see the whole agreement before he signs it, saying when asked about that, “It’s not going to be legal until we sign it because it’s a legal document and it’s still confidential at the moment.”
In a December interview with Warner, he said once a tentative agreement is reached, he’d be fine with students seeing what’s in this operating agreement verbatim. What a tentative agreement means is it would have to be at the point where both SCG and RIC are mutually satisfied with the language.
SCG functions as a representative democracy. In bodies of government such as the Rhode Island General Assembly, residents can both read a bill and even provide their thoughts on it to legislators before it’s voted on or signed.
The Anchor reached out to Warner to fully clarify if students and/or the rest of parliament can publicly see this agreement once a tentative agreement is reached and before Torres signs it.
"When it is finalized it can be shared with students and the Spring 2022 funds will be released," Warner said in a response, adding, "I think it is okay for students to see a tentative agreement when that happens."
He also said in his response that he shares similar optimism as Torres about this agreement being nearly done.
During the same parliament meeting, Torres explained that SCG do not receive student activity fees that graduate students pay. Currently, all undergraduate students' activity fees are given to SCG, which are then distributed amongst student organizations during the yearly budget process.
Warner provided the college's rationale for those fees not being given to SCG, saying, "We do not allocate those to SCG since there is no graduate student representation on SCG and their needs are quite different."
As for where these funds would go if not to SCG, Warner said, "The graduate fees will be allocated for the benefit of graduate students using an advisory group of those students."
In other news, SCG is moving along in the process of changing its bylaws. The main change is reducing the number of members needed to meet quorum. Currently, SCG would need 30 members present out of a total 54 possible members to be considered in quorum.
SCG will meet once more before spring break begins. Their next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 1 at 7 p.m.