University decisions not to break from policy for naming public areas and funding student travel have agitated close friends of Jonathan Rizzo, who passed away last summer.
Members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and University officials are in a financial dispute over $2,000 in charges from a rented bus used to send students to Rizzo’s funeral. The students expected GW to cover the costs. Other friends had requested that the Thurston Hall TV lounge be dedicated to Rizzo at no cost.
The 11 Kappa Sigma members who rode the bus to Boston and 15 on the way back to D.C. were unsure who was paying for it, said Kappa Sigma member and IFC Vice President of Programming Eric Waldman.
The bus trip was open to all students, but only Kappa Sigma fraternity members went, said junior Jordan Usdan, who was on the bus.
University officials said they found a cheap rate for the bus so that
students could afford the trip but never said they would foot the bill.
Mike Gargano, associate vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said it is not GW’s policy to pay for buses for student travel. He blamed Interfraternity Council President Jared David for miscommunication about payment.
“Clearly it was expressed to Jared David that the University is not responsible for cost,” Gargano said
Interim director of the Office of Greek Affairs Ernie Kimlin said the rush to get students to the funeral contributed to the problems.
“Literally we had two days to get the guys up there, and we didn’t know the exact cost at that time,” Kimlin said.
GW Accounting and Analysis Manager Joan Mitchell said she booked the buses, and was told the fraternity was responsible for paying for it.
The total bill for the bus is $3,500, Waldman said.
Earlier this semester, the Student Association allocated an additional $1,000 to the Interfraternity Council to pay for the bus, said Jared David, IFC president. The National Organization of Kappa Sigma, located in Charlottesville, Va., donated $550, Kappa Sigma President Guidroz said.
That leaves $2,000 bill from the Virginia-based Reston Limousine.
“Had my guys known that we had to pay for it, we would have made
other arrangements for transportation,” Waldman said.
David and Guidroz met with GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in late August to discuss payment of the buses. Trachtenberg did not return phone calls for this article.
The University does not want to pay for many of the expenses related to Rizzo’s death because it would be expected to pay for future travel to funerals, David said.
“The school is more concerned about setting a difficult precedent,” David said. “The responsibility of the fact that the bill is unpaid is due to a lack of communication.”
A group of Rizzo’s friends from last year, including Eric Daleo, Josh Schummerling and Kate Powers, also sought GW’s help in a new project – naming the Thurston TV lounge after Rizzo.
They were told they would have to work with the Office of Development to work out fundraising or a donation, said Robert Chernak, vice president for Student and Academic Support Services.
“Unfortunately the statistical problem is that people will lose their lives,” Chernak said. “To name a place on campus, you have to raise money or make a donation.”
Chernak said there are trustee guidelines for naming areas on campus. In order for the University to name a building or area after someone for free, the person must have a notable accomplishment while he or she was here or after he or she left, such as Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, he said.
Daleo said it took a long time for the students to realize money would have to be raised, he said. The agreed amount is $15,000, which he said is “fairly reasonable.” The group became an official ad hoc student group called the Jonathan M. Rizzo Memorial Effort to raise the money.
Chernak also said GW already had plans to create a memorial to all students, faculty and staff who have lost their lives.
Daleo said GW had lengthy discussions about the memorial and applauds GW for doing it, but “we wanted to go out on a more personal level.”
The money would go back into the room if it needs a new TV, paint job or sofa, Daleo said. There will also be a plaque to Rizzo.
“We’re truly leaving a legacy, not just a name change,” Daleo said.
The group will enlist students to work at the MCI Center, and their earnings will go to the fund. A telethon Nov. 11, run by the Development Office from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. will involve calling sophomore parents and asking for donations. The group will also sell ribbons Nov. 27 and 29 on H Street terrace.
The group has raised $3,200 and needs only $4,300 more because the Thomson Corporation in Stamford, Conn., has agreed to match every dollar raised, Daleo said.
The money raised so far has come from a compilation of student groups, Daleo said. GW normally will not take money from groups that go back into GW funds but made an exception for the group. The group has received support from Trachtenberg, even securing a personal donation for an undisclosed amount.
Powers said she thought Rizzo would appreciate all the attention given to him by his friends.
“He’d love every minute of this. He’d love to have his name on the wall,” she said.