Grand Valley State University’s student senate voted on March 21 to leave the charity component of Battle of the Valleys.
Morgan Mattler, GVSU’s student senate executive vice president, said GVSU has been debating leaving for a few years.
“Over the last few years, it has been a debate on whether or not to continue this competition that originated from two student government presidents in 2003,” he said. “Last year, GVSU’s student senate voted on BOV’s fate, and it narrowly lived on by a few votes.”
SA’s current president, Caitlin Coulter, said SA had been informed of the vote to leave last year and told GVSU they were against the decision. This year, GVSU did not inform SA about the vote.
“It came up last year, and they did let us know then,” Coulter said. “I’m not sure what changed. We persuaded them not to pull, so maybe that had something to do with it, but that’s hearsay.”
The reasons GVSU thought about leaving have been the same over the years, Mattler said.
“Every year, the senate leaders tasked with planning BOV already have a multitude of roles, projects and responsibilities that make implementing this event far too overwhelming with all the other
amazing campus initiatives they have going on,” he said.
In response to GVSU’s student senate citing a lack of time as the reason for leaving BOV, Coulter said the time put into planning
was worth the outcome.
“Battle of the Valleys is my baby, and it’s something that I find very important,” she said. “So, yes, it does take up a lot of time. It takes planning over the summer, it takes sources and it is high stress, but I’ve always found it to be very rewarding. It is worth the planning and the resources that it takes. That’s my opinion on it.”
Over the 16 years the BOV charity competition has occurred, $652,385 has been raised for charitable causes. SVSU has contributed over $425,000 of that total, according to SA. SVSU has won the last 11 consecutive BOV competitions.
GVSU’s campus newspaper, The Lanthorn, also reported student senate members believed SA was breaking the agreed-upon BOV rules by raising money outside of BOV week and by accepting money from non-student sources.
Mattler declined to comment on the accusations.
Bilal Qureshi, GVSU’s student senate vice president of public relations said GVSU is currently withholding commentary on BOV, but will release a statement at a later date.
Bob Stoll, the GVSU associate dean of Student Life, said he “had no understanding” about the accusations made against SA and declined to comment further.
Coulter, who served as the philanthropy chair last year, denied the accusations.
“As far as I’m concerned, I ran BOV for the past two years, and that’s inaccurate,” she said. “I am very strict about what the time basis is, and if we get money after, like this year we got almost $1,500 after, that didn’t count toward our total. It was still given to the charity, but it didn’t count toward our total. We never take money from where we’re not supposed to. We do get some sponsorships, but it’s not counted toward the total.”
Last year, then-SA President Lauren Kreiss transferred about $2,000 from SA’s reserve into the BOV section of the budget. Kreiss said she did so after an accounting error led to SA having less money in the BOV section of the budget than they had promised the Mustard Seed Shelter, the 2017 BOV beneficiary.
The transfer violated Article V, Section 2 of the SA bylaws, which requires SA approval for budget transfers of more than $300.
Coulter said that this was a SA bylaw violation and not a violation of the BOV rules that SVSU and GVSU agreed upon.
“That was a double count of a single cell in the Excel file that was used to count the money that year,” Coulter said. “There was no malicious intent to overestimate the amount of money we had raised. The cell was just accounted for twice on the spreadsheet. The reason this violated the bylaws was that the president does not have the authorization to move that amount of money from the reserve without the approval of the house.”
Nolan Twardy, SA’s speaker of the house, said he was unaware of any rule violations.
“This was my first year involved with BOV planning, so it’s hard for me to speak to the last two years because I wasn’t in the internal planning,” he said. “But this year, I can guarantee you there were no rule violations.”
Twardy said SA stresses “ethical practices” and following BOV rules.
“We wouldn’t even take a few dollars before the week started,” he said. “Someone wanted to buy a shirt early before the week started, and we said no. Speaking from this year’s administration, we tried our hardest to be ethical and to abide by the rules.”
While the charity competition component of BOV may be gone, both universities plan on hosting other charity fundraisers.
“Student senate still intends to lead campus charity efforts to benefit the community, and we expect that our senate will still be engaging in different and more-widespread charity efforts and events throughout the year,” Mattler said.
Coulter and Twardy were unsure of BOV’s fate at SVSU, given that a new SA board will be elected next week.
“I think some sort of fundraising week would be beneficial going forward,” Twardy said. “SVSU has a great track record in the community for that. I feel for SA to completely abandon that, personally speaking as a student as I am not running for re-election, I would appreciate if my SA were to at least continue something to give back to the community.”
Coulter believed SA could continue to do a BOV fundraiser in the future and has kept applications open for a new charity.
“There will certainly be some changes (to BOV),” she said. “I think that it will be up to the future association obviously, but if we were to continue with a fundraising week, there’s a lot of heart here. I think the students really care about that sort of thing. So, I would hope that it would still be successful.”
Coulter thinks finding a new university to compete against may help ensure BOV’s future at SVSU.
“I do fear that after a few years with the competition not being there, it may die out, so I personally, not speaking on behalf of SA, would be finding another school to compete with,” she said.
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