Something smells fishy in SGA

From: Patrick Mascio, Towson University senior and former SGA presidential candidate

UPDATE 2/27/18: This letter to the editor has been edited for clarity.

On Feb. 6, The Towerlight published an article titled “SGA updates student body on progress of platform promises.” This article was intended to update the student body on the progress, or lack thereof, of the promises that this SGA administration made during the election last spring. However, the article served to raise more questions about the conduct of the current administration rather than provide answers. This administration is marred in unconstitutional practices and a culture of elitism that appears to start at the top, and these concerns require a swift and transparent explanation.  

The first and most important role of any new SGA administration is creating the annual budget. Every full-time student enrolled at Towson University pays $90 per year to the SGA. These “student fees” add up to around $2 million, and the SGA must decide how best to allocate this money. As students, we should know where our money is going – all $2 million of it. Why, then, has the SGA not publicly released its budget for this academic year? Why don’t we know how or where our student fees are being spent? The Student Government Association’s Constitution mandates that the Treasurer must release a “Treasurer’s Report” on the first Tuesday of every month detailing their spending, yet there has not been a single report released by this administration, with the most recent report listed on the SGA website being from over a year ago [Editor’s note 2/27/18: The SGA Constitution requires the Treasurer to release a Treasurer’s Report to the student body on the first Tuesday of every month, but it does not specify how that report must be released. The SGA is not constitutionally required to post Treasurer’s Reports on their website. That said, the SGA website has been under construction and therefore has not featured Treasurer’s Reports for the 2017-2018 academic year. However, Treasurer’s Reports are available upon request. According to SGA Director of Communications Kaitlyn McClanahan, the website should be updated with these reports by mid-March. In the meantime, readers can access these reports on The Towerlight website here.] The facts are troubling, and they beg the question: Why has this administration been keeping their spending a secret? Why has no one in this administration held its Treasurer accountable for not carrying out their constitutional duty? Maybe it’s because this administration does not want to report that they have used student fee money to pay for a dinner for all of its members at Fogo de Chão. [Editor’s note 2/27/18: The SGA ate at Fogo de Chão during their winter retreat. According to McClanahan, the dinner was paid for via the SGA Retreat line item and cost $4,161.36. This line item is reserved to pay for SGA retreat expenses including meals and housing. “Since over half of our organization is unpaid, we took this time to reward our members for their hard work this past semester,” McClanahan said.] Let that sink in for a second. We, as students, are mandated to pay this organization a fee and they used hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to treat themselves to an exquisite steak dinner. The SGA either has no regard for the pockets of the students they take its money from, or they have no regard for the documents that govern their organization. Perhaps they have no regard for either.

Equally concerning is the lack of transparency from this administration as a whole. The SGA website severely lacks pertinent information, especially when compared to other USM schools like the University of Maryland, College Park or the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The group photo pictured on the homepage of the website is of last year’s administration, and, as previously stated by The Towerlight, there are no photos or office hours listed for any current members of the organization. Additionally, there are no voting records listed for any of the Student Senate meetings that have been held since September, or any meetings whatsoever. These voting records and meeting minutes are supposed to be posted by the Director of Communications, per the Student Government Association’s Constitution. The Director of Communications is also constitutionally mandated to coordinate the production and release of weekly wrap-up videos, but not a single one of these videos appear on the organization’s website. [Editor’s note 2/27/18: The SGA constitution does require the Director of Communications to coordinate the production and release of weekly wrap-up videos, but it does not specify that those videos must be posted to the SGA website. The SGA posted September, October and fall semester wrap-up videos on their social media accounts last semester. These videos were, of course, monthly and semesterly wrap-up videos, rather than the weekly wrap-up videos that are specified in the SGA Constitution. No weekly wrap-up videos have been posted for the spring semester on SGA social media or for the 2017-2018 academic year on the SGA website. However, McClanahan said the SGA will post a February wrap-up video in March, including updates on Tiger Pride Day which will occur on Feb. 28.] Again the question is raised: Why have duties that are constitutionally mandated gone unperformed? Why are simple tasks, such as updating the group picture on the website, not completed? Why is there a blatant lack of transparency from this SGA administration?

As a senior and former member of the SGA’s executive board, I can confidently say that this is the most careless and incompetent SGA administration I have experienced in my four years at Towson. This administration has repeatedly ignored its governing documents, ones that are in place to enforce ethical and productive behavior. The actions of this administration are nothing short of unconstitutional, and its apparent disregard for these wrongdoings demonstrates a shocking culture of elitism that this administration promised to combat.

There is an old expression used to explain this type of organizational demise: A fish rots from the head down. President James Mileo needs to be held accountable for the gross incompetence displayed by his administration. Does he not care about the lack of transparency of his administration? Does he not care that multiple constitutional duties across numerous paid positions are consistently ignored? Does he not care about being accountable to the students that pay him? Mileo, who is compensated $12,000 in student fee money and a VIP parking pass (among other perks), needs to answer for the rotting fish that is this SGA administration. [Editor’s note: According to McClanahan, the SGA president is paid $13.00 per hour for up to 20 hours per week. McClanahan said “the SGA president works an average of 35 hours per week meaning he is doing about 15 hours a week of unpaid work.” The SGA president also receives a Board of Visitors parking pass to attend meetings around campus.]

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