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SG judicial branch spending misuses student-paid funds

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 02:04

In the current economic climate, Americans have kept a watchful eye on wasteful government spending. Expensive food and lavish perks for government officials have dominated headlines, creating embarrassing situations for officials and causing those they are meant to represent to lose trust in who they’re funding.

Yet the most recent issue of wasteful spending isn’t the highly publicized General Service Administration’s Las Vegas conference — it’s the inflated budget of the USF Student Government (SG) judicial branch.

The judicial branch spent its budget, which saw an increase of $11,754 in student-paid Activity and Service fees for next year, largely on trivial items, demonstrating a flagrant disregard by SG officials for appropriately spending their peers’ hard-earned money. 

According to receipts from the judicial branch, $527.04 was spent on food purchases throughout the year, with $486 spent on meals during a 26-hour trip for nine justices and $104 spent on taco platters from Tijuana Flats purchased for a 15-person training session. By comparison, only $245.44 was spent on food during the 2010-11 fiscal year.

The issue has even stirred the consciences of the justices benefiting from such perks. 

“It’s gotten to a point where now if there’s any excuse or anything to justify it — if someone’s coming to talk to us, or we’re going to do something between our meetings — food is ordered, and it’s only ordered because it’s being paid for by somebody else and we can get away with it because it’s in our budget,” Associate Justice Sean McCarthy told The Oracle. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t be happening.” 

The wasteful spending doesn’t stop with food. Official judicial branch meeting minutes reflect internal discussions over purchases of new computers, name plates, leather padfolios and binders, with Chief Justice Robert Then saying at one point: “Well, we have a good budget, so let’s make it rain.”

The chief justice position can earn up to $10,250 next fiscal year, as opposed to $6,150 this fiscal year. The judicial branch does deal with important components of the campus, including hearing parking tickets appeals and promoting awareness of student rights and responsibilities. Yet the frivolous spending of the judicial branch raises questions about whether such possible raises are warranted.

For SG to continue its mission of serving students and providing the most bang for their buck, it should seriously examine the intentions of those they place in positions of power. The student body of USF, which comprises more than 40,000 students, should not be used as the personal piggy bank of any departments. 

Yet, this guffaw does prove that judicial branch members may have a bright future ahead of them in the U.S. government.

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