Student Government officials don’t earn much money; that much is clear. But SG’s logic that because its members are underpaid it has the right to party on student funds is an affront to the trust students put into their supposed representatives.
Last week The Oracle detailed how SG had chartered the StarShip, a luxury cruise ship in Tampa, and dug into Activity & Services fees to pay most of the costs of the dinner and “appreciation gifts.” Each SG member attending the event paid $10, but students paid the remaining $2,763.
Former student body President Bijal Chhadva, who originally signed off on the idea, said SG officials “could easily get $20 per hour for their skills, abilities and talents,” yet they receive $6. He also said that, in contrast, SG officials could earn “$8 per hour for folding clothes” at the mall.
We have every confidence that SG officials would do a good job at folding clothes at the mall, but this is not what they signed up for. Their job description entails many hours of work for little pay and, in some cases, also little recognition from students. But SG officials know this when they sign up for the job. To complain after the fact and then dig into funds that trusting students have set aside for community uses is unbecoming of political representatives of any caliber.
Confronted with the costs and questions about the unethical use of student funds, Chhadva made matters worse when he told The Oracle that he was “fairly sure” the event had been publicly advertised to students. SG runs its ads in the Oracle, which made it easy to verify that such an ad was never placed.
Also troubling is that the highly questionable use of A&S funds was not a unique incident. SG is planning a “retreat” in early August that will divert $5,160 to give SG members what student body President Maxon Victor called “motivation and encouragement.”
With all due respect to the time and energy spent by SG to make our campus’ community better, needing “fuel for the spirit and the soul,” as Victor put it, gives it no right to divert funds, let alone splurge on trips and parties. While this may not be illegal, it flies in the face of the trust that students put into their representatives and is unacceptable behavior.