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April 01, 2009

St. Michael's Student Gov't Shenanigans UPDATE

Bad day to be a member of the St. Michael's Student Association E-board yesterday. The Defender/Echo published a pair of stories that did not reflect so well on the S.A. E-board: one on how a recent vote on a constitutional amendment proved controversial and may be void, and another revealing that the S.A. President and Finance Secretary have spent student money on personal food purchases.

Transparency has been raised as an issue this semester, largely due to the efforts of S.A. senator Josh Hoxie, the senator who got access to the E-board's budget and exposed the wings/pizza story. The biggest issue has been the fact that an up-do-date copy of the S.A. constitution is impossible to find — hard copies are tough to come by, and only an outdated version exists on the S.A. Web site.

Similarly, the contents of the E-board's budget have been a mystery until now. Student clubs, funded by the student activities fee that's overseen by the S.A., have the S.A. keeping tabs on their budget all year, and the finance secretary has to sign off on all purchases. Thus it's been something of a double standard that the S.A. E-board has had the ability to spend their money in secret, without oversight. Kudos to Hoxie, the other S.A. members who've been pushing for transparency, and the reporters who followed the story.

Last night there was an open forum for the candidates for Student Association positions for next year. About 150 students showed up, and many posed pointed questions to the candidates about budget and procedural transparency, as well as issues of sustainability and social justice. For example, the (unopposed) Class of 2010 VP candidate was asked, after he made a speech detailing all the sweet senior socials we'll have, if he had any plans for the class to make a wider impact in the community instead of just social events. Zing. Perhaps the Barack Obama era really has inspired a new level of political involvement by our generation, even at the college election level.

(Full disclosure note: I work on the staff of The Defender/Echo. I'm the editor of The Naked Opinion though, so I wasn't privy to the details of this story until I was putting it on the Web site just before publishing. I've got my own bone to pick with the school regarding the selection of Asher Roth as our spring concert opening act, which I discussed here, but that's a story for another time...)

UPDATE: As expected, the plot thickens. S.A. president Steve O'Neil, and finance secretary Jon Kaptcianos sent a campus-wide email today, rebutting the claims made against them. They say that the nearly $2,000 was spent on buying E-board members meals in the campus dining hall, so that they could "increase the visibility" of the E-board after their meal plan of 40 meals ran out. $900 was spent on food for finals-week study spaces.

They do admit to some personal meals taken, though. $70 was spent on Wings over Burlington after an S.A. meeting one unspecified night (no doubt that anyone who's ever been to one of those dreary borefests wishes they could have wings on someone else's tab as a reward for sitting through it). About $70 more was spent on pizza for three E-board members on the day in which they were having budget meetings with clubs. Makes sense that they would want some sustenance for dealing with budgets for an entire day — but clubs have been forbidden from using their funds to buy food this entire year, unless the food was for an event open to the entire campus. In this sense, there's clearly a double standard.

Most interesting is that the email claims that the invoices for all of these purchases "are available to anyone who would like to see them." Based on discussions that occurred in public at the candidates' open forum last night, amongst other evidence, this is not the case. I vividly remember last night that a Class of 2011 presidential candidate said he attempted to get access to the budget "several" times and was never successful. Additionally, the article on the food-spending controversy says, "Defender and Echo editors have made numerous requests to review S.A. club expense reports, as provided for in the S.A Constitution. Each request has been denied."

Maybe those invoices are available to everyone NOW, but this transparency has not been available until this controversy blew up.

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Comments

SMC Student

In reference to your comment "For example, the (unopposed) Class of 2010 VP candidate was asked, after he made a speech detailing all the sweet senior socials we'll have, if he had any plans for the class to make a wider impact in the community instead of just social events. Zing."

I would like to point out that no one else stepped up for that position and I applaud him for doing so. It is tough getting up in front of 150+ classmates and giving a speech. The candidate wanted to give a brief intro into what he would like to see done as a student of the class of 2010. Also, keep in mind that he has been working with the candidate for class of 2010 president and I believe she spoke in depth about more detailed community involvement events that our class plains to put on. If you are to critique others involvement and passion to help improve our class, try throwing your hat into the ring next time.

SMC SENIOR

I think what the Defender/Echo is doing is excellent work. The S.A. has been corrupt for years at this school, and now people are finally releasing information. Tyrone Walker, Allen Smith, Mallory Wood, Alex Monahan, Bill O'Connor.... They all took cash and personal expenditures for personal gain!

Mallory Wood

In regards to "Similarly, the contents of the E-board's budget have been a mystery until now. Student clubs, funded by the student activities fee that's overseen by the S.A., have the S.A. keeping tabs on their budget all year, and the finance secretary has to sign off on all purchases. Thus it's been something of a double standard that the S.A. E-board has had the ability to spend their money in secret, without oversight."

Let's get the facts. Everything ever spent by the Eboard is with permission from Grace Kelly, as she signs off on all the expenses. Plus the accountants must agree with the purchases, or else they would not allow them to go through. The contents of the Eboard budget have never been a mystery, no one has asked in previous years to look at the budget. Money is not spent in secret, without oversight. It is too bad that the long history of resentment between the Defender/Echo and the Eboard is now getting personal. Direct attacks against Steve O'Neil and Jon Kaps were completely unwarranted - bad journalism.

And for the "SMC Senior" ... If you are going to call people out and make direct attacks without writing your name on your post, why post? Get your facts right. Bill O'Connor graduated in 2008 and was never a part of the Student Association... actually he was part of the Defender/Echo staff.

SMCer

WHOA. The Defender is a tabloid, everyone knows it and NO ONE takes it seriously. (Just sayin what no one else will)

SMC

Just to back up the comment above...NOOOOO ONE takes the defender or echo seriously at SMC, except of course the kids that write for it. The sad part is, the students that write for the two papers are forced to as part of their curriculum, and many don't want to because it is such a joke.

...

Why not ask the journalism kids where the money for their lab fees come from? Bite the hand that feeds you, oops.

Full support for the previous two comments.

SMC Junior

Mallory-- I do not feel that people should be taking this all personal and I am a little surprised that as an employee of the college for admissions you are getting involved in this.

In the democracy that we live in it is the job of reporters and journalists to investigate issues and dig for the facts. In a case like this the news may have been released prematurely before all the information was uncovered but it does not seem like they have a choice. Constitutionally any student should be able to go look at the files. I see no reason why someone should need to set up an appointment for something like looking at "public" files as long as one went during open SA hours and there was a work study student there to oversee that someone didn't tamper or steal them. I do not look at this issue as a personal attack on the SA President and Secretary of Finance. This seems to be more of a culture. What makes it more of an issue is that within the past few years club food budgets were cut unless the food was available for all of Saint Mikes. As a student. I never got an invite for the Wings after that long SA Meeting?

As for the journalism department "biting the hand that feeds them" they are not actually a club. This is a function of the school that in my opinion every school should have. What the SA funds is so that the papers are available for all us students to read.

People have been doing a lot of things for a long time and since my time here I feel that the E-board we have now has been more responsible then most. With that being said, in economic times where professors are freezing their pay to keep employees maybe us students can make a few sacrifices as well.

7days fan

I agree that this is not a personal attack. Information about spending should be public. It seems as though the fact that this issue is being investigated this year, is just that way it happened.

I read about this on the SMC Echo. It is concerning that the faculty adviser said he trusts them and has never had a reason to question what they do. Im sure all these students are fine people, but they are controling a lot of money. In a democracy, it is important that citizens, or in this case, students, remain a little skeptical and question what goes on.

Tyler Machado

Mallory, the article quotes Josh Hoxie: “It seems like that’s a self-approving thing. The only two signatures I saw were Steve and Jon’s.”

Apparently it isn't Grace Kelly's signature that's showing up on the purchasing records. If it were, I would be disappointed that she would approve a chicken wing dinner exclusively for E-board members just because an SA meeting ran especially long one night.

I also don't think that there have been no personal attacks in coverage to date. The email that Steve and Jon sent out confirmed all the figures presented in the article. The Defender has made no assertions about anyone's moral fiber. There's nothing personal about it.

SeenYour

A. Defender IS NOT taken seriously.
B. SMC junior, you're right journalism isn't a club isn't that the point? I didn't know their lab fees get paid, that is crap. My friend is in the science club, maybe she should get her fees paid too.
C. If employee's name is dragged into something that they aren't involved with anymore, and their (falsely!) accused of stealing money - I'd comment too. Reputations are being damaged now.
D. The entire article was a personal attack, whether it mentioned moral fiber or not. Matt should get off his power trip.

SMC Student

I think what no one is acknowledging is the particular relevance of this issue to the national climate. Members of national newspapers have been harshly criticized in recent times for not asking tough questions of the government and wall street. When these SMC journalists graduate, are they going to remember the importance of asking tough questions, or are they going to remember the backlash that came from it?

SMc Junior

Seenyour-- I think you are confusing the terms a little bit. The "lab fees" for the defender that the SA pays for is just for the printing of the paper so that they are available to students. The lab fees for your friend that is a science major is for courses, not the club.

It is about time the defender reported on something other then campus activities and athletic achievements. Now the issues are actually meaning something. I agree with SMC Student that investigative journalism needs to be practiced. If there is a misinterpretation of facts then that will be explained at Tuesday's SA meeting and I'm sure Matt and crew will be there to report on it in the next issue.

I would like to emphasize and reiterate that the faculty have collectively decided to freeze their wages so cuts would not have to be made and to prevent a sharp increase in tuition. What have the students been doing?

SMC6643

What have the students been doing? Giving away 10 G's to Fix it with Five. Totally agree SMC Junior, employees at SMC aren't going to get wage increases for who knows how long. Those 57 (or however many) students who voted 'yes' to Fw5 need a wake up!

Got to wonder what the families coming this weekend are going to think of the latest def/echo issue.

Kevin Anglin

OK, OK, first let me say Jack finally stepped up his game in this week’s episode. But, Sawyer is really growing on me still, will he and Kate ever get back together!? God they are sooo perfect for each other. So many twists and turns this season! I wish someone would travel back in time for me (sigh) What’s a girl to do?, Whoa, wait a second, this isn’t my “Lost” blog. Where the hell am I!? S.A Shenanigans! Nice! Wait a second, at first the title really grabbed me. I was hoping that the S.A. had been running around putting whoopee-Cushions under people’s chairs and putting mustaches on pictures, or maybe even putting a “no parking” sign on the Men’s Room door. Tee hee, that’d be silly. Those would be Shenanigans. So I feel mislead, and lied to, a general sense of what is the world coming to when someone uses the term “Shenanigans” inappropriately? I mean if someone is willing to do this, should I even get up for work in the morning? Should I ever smile again? Where's the beef? I know I am not the only one out there with these provocative questions. Somewhere old Gerald T. Shenanigan is turning over in his grave. You all may remember him as the first person ever to say “psyche!” after misleading someone to believe something. WHAT WOULD HE SAY NOW!?...Ok just kidding, the S.A said they’d give me 40 billion dollars if I wrote this…but I would’ve done it for free…but seriously I need the cash.
Anglin/McSherry 2024 SA president, vice president
“plan for the future”

smcJunior 2

interesting how the only people sticking up for the SA are their friends and themselves...do their friends get to dip into the pot a little bit too? I wouldnt be surprised. Especially with all that alcohol they buy for themselves on student's money.

also interesting how just about every club is ecstatic that the SA finally was exposed...hmmmm

Phil Smith

Tyler, you keep fighting the man there. After the mess we got into with 'PV a year back, that's really all I have to say. Keep fighting that good fight.

Kevin Anglin

Hey now, hey now, hey now! I thought I was clear when I said that the S.A. totally hooked me up! Man, when I was in the SA we didn’t just use meal cards, we literally ate money. I was on a strict diet of 20 dollar bills with a light balsamic dressing. McSherry refused to eat anything that wasn’t converted to a Euro. That Monahan character actually snorted rolls of quarters. Sometimes we’d all jump into this backroom that was filled with cash like Scrooge McDuck, then, we’d eat our way out. God, this feels really good to get off my chest. I remember once we used student funds to buy a Shetland pony. A pony! We used to take turns riding it up a giant hill of money, then race back down. Boy it made us hungry, so we ate the pony and purchased another one shortly thereafter. We went through at least 37 ponies in the first semester alone. But the worst use of money, the absolute worst was that Glubiak was pissed that they cancelled the classic TV show “Blossom.” He called them up in a fit of rage and demanded they perform another season for him. “Money is not a problem” he muttered after taking a long drag from an imported cigar (purchased with SMC Junior 2’s tuition money) “Just make it happen.” So the cast from blossom did matinee performances Wednesday through Fridays right in the S.A office, and then, and only then, did I ever see Glubiak smile.

SMC4ME

I might be going out on a limb but it sounds like Kevin is making fun of the stupidity of this entire situation. He has a point!!!!!!!!

SMC Junior2: Do you have proof they buy alcohol? I mean I don't know much about the SA other than an occasional meeting for my club, but it kind of seems like if we can't buy alcohol and have it pass through the accountants, then they probably can't either. And it is kind of bogus to think "every club" is estatic right now. I know a lot of clubs/members, including the one I'm in, that think the SA is being treated unfairly and the Defender and their advisors need to get a life.

If the SA is so corrupt then why have the SA presidential race gone unnopposed the last 2 years. If people really want to make a change, stop pissing and moaning and DO something. All of you "SMC Juniors and Seniors" posting on here just sounds like whiny brats.

And on another note, while I have your attention, perhaps the Defender should realize they are a CAMPUS NEWSPAPER. Get off your high horses (maybe that is where Kevin's ponies went...) you consistnetly print a paper that is known on campus as a tabloid. Half of campus doesn't read it, and the half that does thinks its crap. "Interesting" how the only people that will rebute this comment will be journalism students and their friends.

I was talking to a friend this weekend and asked her what she thought of the whole issue going on here, and she had no idea what I was talking about! Maybe thats a message of this ridiculousness and how not everyone's lives revolves around the drama the Defender tries to stir up.

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