Checking the facts about SGA

By: Cody Boteler, Senior Editor

Unlike last year, when current Student Government Association President Kevin Kutner and his ticket faced no opposition for the executive board, this year, the election is contested between two tickets: The Roar and Ohana.

 

Both tickets are headed by presidential candidates currently in the SGA. Kurt Anderson, director of university communications, heads The Roar and Gayon Sampson, chief of staff, is on top of the Ohana ticket.

 

This election has brought with it rumors and accusations lobbied against both tickets.

 

In an effort to better inform campus voters and create an atmosphere where Towson students can cast an informed ballot, The Towerlight has spent the past two weeks working to collect and fact check as many of those rumors and accusations as possible. In no particular order, this article will discuss the claims that have been made.

The SGA Exec Board receives free parking on campus

This is partially true. According to Pam Mooney, director of parking and transportation, the SGA president receives free parking on campus because the SGA president is a member of the Board of Visitors. No other member of the SGA Executive Board receives free parking, however, members of the executive board, if they have purchased a parking permit, can park in faculty spaces in the Union Garage or the Admin building parking lot “when they are doing business,” according to Mooney.

 

Members of the SGA took expenses-paid trips to Arkansas and to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, including the cost of alcohol.

Again, this is partially true. First and foremost, nobody in the SGA was reimbursed for money that they spent on alcohol. SGA money was spent on trips, but no SGA money was spent on alcohol.

 

The trip to New Orleans was for the American Student Government Association conference. Conference fees, paid for by the SGA, according to Business Services Specialist for the SGA Vicki Young, totaled $945.

 

Kutner, Vice President Becky Wiacek, Treasurer Joanna Enoch, Attorney General Bayan Rusom and Sampson departed on Feb. 19 and returned to Baltimore on Feb. 22. Mardi Gras 2015 was on Feb. 17. The total spent on airfare by the SGA, according to receipts acquired from Young, was $1,563.50. For three nights in two rooms at a Hilton in the French Quarter of New Orleans, SGA spent $1,990.38. Over $440 was reimbursed to the executive board for food.

 

According to Missy Ronan, a freshman senator who is running for reelection, the SGA exec board did not have to go through the same kind of review process for their travel that other student groups would have to go through.

“I never heard, and I could be wrong, but it was never announced to the general senate or at any meeting what [the executive board] learned at the conference,” Ronan, who is running as a part of The Roar Movement, said.

 

Sampson said that, at the conference, he was able to learn a lot about conflict management, empowerment and how the SGA at Towson can “do better.”

 

The SGA spent over $2,000 on a flight for five students to Little Rock, Arkansas and over $1,000 on three hotel rooms for three nights.

 

According to Jon Connelly, director of community outreach for the SGA, the trip to Arkansas was about Greek Housing (an initiative that both tickets running for the SGA executive board are in support of). Connelly said that the University of Central Arkansas recently started Greek housing, so the students went “to talk with them [about] how they got the initiative off the ground.”

 

Connelly said that UCA set up an itinerary for the trip and that the experience was “pretty informative.”

 

SGA Internal Spending

If student groups want SGA money, they have to go through a budget hearing process with the SGA. Internal SGA spending – money spend by members of the cabinet or senators who have their own initiatives – does not have to be reviewed as thoroughly.

 

The money goes to the person’s direct supervisor for review before going to the SGA president who can ultimately say no to the spending, according to Brandon Wharton, current deputy chief of staff for the SGA.

 

This year, SGA had over $20,000 approved in its budget for internal and discretionary spending.

 

Constitutionally, the SGA Treasurer is supposed to produce a written financial update every month. According to an email from Enoch, the accounting in the SGA has been “backed up.”

“It has been my judgment that publishing an incomplete financial report would cause more confusion than clarification,” the email said.

Some of this internal spending over the past year has included $600 on banners for the SGA — being used to establish the SGA brand. “We use them for everything now,” Anderson said. Over $3,000 on polos and Oxford shirts for members of the SGA, meals off-campus (like at Pei Wei or Olive Garden) instead of in a dining hall and money that goes toward SGA events, such as the recent Safety Day.

Sampson said that the spending on personal apparel is justified, and it prevents socioeconomic status from being a factor of whether or not a student can hold a position in the SGA.

“We want to make sure people can identify who we are,” Sampson said, comparing the SGA-embroidered apparel to a uniform that a police officer might wear.

Both Sampson and Anderson said that there would be spending on personal apparel for members of the SGA next year. Anderson said that the spending would not exist to the same extent that it did this year.

 

Website

The SGA website has not been updated and the “Meet the SGA” page is not complete, with several members lacking a photo or listed office hours. One of the largest links on the front page is to “Dear Doc,” a platform that was launched by the SGA to hear student concerns, but that has not been largely used.

Part of Anderson’s duties as director of university communications for the SGA is to run the SGA website.

In contrast, The Roar website was launched within days and does not appear to have the sorts of technical issues that the SGA site has.

Anderson said that The Roar website was easier to launch and maintain because it is hosted on a private server, and that the SGA website has not been updated because of coding issues and issues with the server that the SGA website is hosted on.

 

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