SGA spending scandal an embarassment

by Beacon Staff • February 13, 2008

Wasteful Student Government Association spending

Our View:

Spending $33,000 on a party irresponsible, betrays hard truths about SGA,It's safe to say that, in general, Emersonians take a pretty dismissive view of the Student Government Association. Those who aren't openly critical of their supposed representatives are simply apathetic-"They do what, exactly?"

This widespread distaste and disinterest is, in many ways, understandable. A distant bunch, the SGA has more members to its name than remarkable accomplishments. To be fair, that's an ancient complaint, one leveled against every governing body in human history.

Still, one would think that in a fishbowl-sized community like our own, student leaders would be able to exert serious positive influence. The SGA is a broad and nuanced collective of young politicos, with a title and department for every imaginable niche. Yet, somehow, gratifying results are few and far between. Nobody is asking for miracles, but truly praiseworthy action once in a while couldn't hurt.

This week, however, a couple SGA members have distinguished themselves-and for something commendable.

Kudos to John Tyson (VMA Senator) and Chance Dorland (Off-Campus Commissioner) for resigning their respective seats in the face of egregious SGA wastefulness.

Their withdrawals follow a Tuesday vote approving approximately $33,000 for Hand Me Down Night, a banquet and awards show meant to honor campus organizations. The gala also features a ceremonial transfer of power from existing leaders to proteacute;geacute;s.

All in all, Hand Me Down Night seems quite the occasion, a fun romp for a select few on the collective buck. The event's hefty price is satisfied with money taken from the pocket of every single Emersonian via the mandatory student activity fee. Despite the shared burden, only a few hundred students ultimately attend the schmooze fest.

Adding insult to injury, Grace Konrad, chairperson of the night's organizing committee, is also an SGA member of prominent rank (2009 Class President). Amazingly, Chief Justice Jeff Foster shrugged off the possibility that her dual positions constitute a pressing conflict of interest.

Though there were some discussions on lowering the budget of Hand Me Down Night last year, these talks amounted to nothing: this year's price tag exceeds 2007's by some $6,000. So, at around $33,000, the event amounts to one of the semester's top SGA expenditures.

Tyson and Dorland were maddened by such disturbing-not to mention borderline unethical-largesse. The Beacon commends their principle, as well as that of Monica Cassanova (2010 Class Senator), who voted against the $30,000 but did not resign after it passed by a 7:1 margin.

Dismaying as the Hand Me Down Night imbroglio may be, it reveals an uglier truth about our student leaders.

According to former Sen. Tyson, the SGA is "nothing but a bank for the well-established [organizations]." In his e-mail resignation, he goes on to call it a "glorified rubber stamp" and a "social club."

Those characterizations are unfortunate, but tough to deny. What's worse is they're not surprising. Maybe Tyson was shocked to uncover the SGA's fundamental pettiness, but many Emersonians caught on long ago.

After all, Joe Siccardo was launched into the vice-presidency of the class of 2010 after a "joke" campaign. He received just eight write-in votes. And last year,

Scott Fisher ran alone on the ballot for the presidency of the SGA itself-and won, despite his freshman status. Siccardo and Fisher bear no fault for these chagrining occurrences, but their elections do betray the lack of seriousness with which the body operates.

The current government will finish out its term under a cloud of scandal; the accusations of favoritism and irresponsibility aren't going anywhere.

Next year, though, Emersonians have a chance to elect a fresh slate of representatives. Hopefully, Lions will invest some attention and energy in those elections, selecting an SGA which really represents the college community.