The Patriots Plaza cleared one hurdle for USD’s Student Government, but it has quickly ran into another.
The Student Government Association passed a bill supporting the Patriots Plaza and USD student veterans at their meeting on Jan. 21, but SGA President Carson Zubke vetoed the bill three days later.
In his veto, Zubke wrote, “The sudden vote to approve Senate Bill #84 was a hasty action to approve legislation with no commonly articulated deadline. This action did not allow an opportunity to address unanswered questions.”
Zubke said one of the bill’s issues is that it doesn’t give the account number the money would come from to fund the project.
The structure of SGA’s matching gift, Zubke said, also still needs to be decided.
Community members and various groups have already raised $94,000 for the Patriots Plaza. Once the total of donations from community members and groups reaches $100,000, President Gestring will donate $100,000 of her own money to the project.
SGA couldn’t decide how they want to do their own donation at Tuesday’s meeting.
“It’s a question of ‘Is our gift going towards the $94,000 which President Gestring matches, or do we want it to be marketed to alumni and friends who, if they give whatever amount, we match their gift?’” Zubke said.
Regardless of the confusion over how SGA will donate to the project, Zubke said senators are in favor of the Patriots Plaza, but the vote on the bill was so quick, some questions didn’t get answered, Zubke said, such as the deadline for the money.
“I want to see senators’ questions answered first of all. I think we all owe respect to each other on senate to provide information we have,” Zubke said.
Senator Matt Yetter, the bill sponsor, said SGA should support the Patriots Plaza because it is a project that came from a student government initiative and is meant to honor students.
“This is something that Student Government should automatically be interested in funding and I can’t understand why people would want to vote against this,” Yetter said.
The bill sponsor said he intends to override the veto.
“This is a project that students support, and that student representatives should, by virtue of that, support,” Yetter said.
Joseph Knoer, the USD Veterans Club President, attended the SGA meeting on Jan. 21 when the bill was passed. After the bill passed, Knoer informed members of the student veterans club, as well as faculty who are veterans.
“Everybody was really excited SGA was willing to support in such a generous way and now that they’re trying to take it away, it’s a little bit disheartening,” Knoer said.
Brady Carroll, the secretary of the Veterans Club, said vetoing the bill would damage the reputation of the members of SGA.
“This is going to be the next permanent fixture on campus and it would frankly look terrible if the representatives of the students chose not to support it,” Carroll said.
Zubke encourages people to watch the Facebook video of the SGA meeting from Jan. 21, he said. His veto pertained to how the bill was passed.
“The veto message isn’t about money. It’s not about the Patriots Plaza, and it’s not about any students or student group,” Zubke said. “It’s about the accountability that our senators have for themselves to do their jobs and for our legislative process.”
Senator Macy Halverson also voted “no” on Senate Bill #84. Halverson said she didn’t feel confident with the information contained in the bill.
“I cannot vote yes on a fiscally irresponsible bill that could affect thousands of students at USD in the scope of enrollment trends if we were to need those reserve funds for one reason or another,” Halverson stated in an email to The Volante.
Senator Kyle Ireland also voted against the bill because he said the bill needed more time and could benefit from the input of the new senators who were sworn in after the bill passed.
“I wanted more information on whether or not the match from the University could occur later, as well as I felt like we rushed the bill and didn’t give it the proper consideration on the Senate floor,” Ireland wrote in an email to The Volante.
Zubke said his veto is not meant to terminate the Patriots Plaza.
“This veto is not the final step. It’s just an opportunity for us to revisit the topic and work towards a final solution,” Zubke said.
At the SGA meeting on Jan. 28, Senator Yetter attempted to override the veto. The veto stood after 12 votes to override it and 13 to keep it. The veto needed a two-thirds vote to be overturned.
Yetter said he is disappointed with SGA’s decision. “[SGA] is supposed to represent the entirety of the student body but is more worried about putting $60,000-plus dollars in their reserves than funding $10,000 dollars for a memorial for student veterans,” Yetter said.
Zubke said SGA had a productive conversation about the project.
“Now it’s a question of how we are supporting it financially,” Zubke said. “This is a really valuable project to campus. I’m confident we’ll get something finished in the next six weeks.”