The Student Association Finance Committee held a special session Monday night to investigate Vice President for Judicial and Legislative Affairs Justin Oshana’s decision to make a complete listing of student organization expenditures public.
The heated meeting, which had to be moved to the Marvin Center Amphitheater because so many students showed up, ended when Oshana abruptly left.
The meeting came in the wake of a recent Student Court suit brought against the Finance Committee by the College Republicans, who claim the SA’s release of financial information was both an invasion of privacy and a violation of SA bylaws.
Last month Sen. Mark Hershfield (Law) approached Vishnu Murphy, vice president for Financial Affairs, asking for a copy of the financial records. Though senators did not object to releasing limited documentation, the decision to release the full accounting statements of the student groups was called into question.
“I thought it was the right thing to do,” Hershfield said. “What is so controversial about asking where students’ money is going?”
When Sen. Dan Moss (U-SBPM), who also serves as College Republicans chair, questioned the request, Oshana made a judicial decision based on his interpretation of the bylaws. At the meeting, Oshana defended his actions, citing precedent from a Student Court case in 1997 in which similar records were released.
Members of the Finance Committee objected to the decision to release the documents both on procedural grounds and because of the possible consequences of releasing information that may be inaccurate. Committee members said student group budgets are not always balanced because of day-to-day expenses. The release of this information, they said, may cause more conflict than it is worth.
“I’m not going to not obey a court order because members of the Finance Committee view it differently,” Oshana said. Sitting in front of the five-member committee, Oshana calmly and contemptuously ate pieces of candy while being questioned.
He called the meeting “ridiculous.”
The suit was dropped, but the Finance Committee held the meeting to discuss the legal precedent Oshana used and the interpretation of the bylaws.
“I’m not opposed to releasing records, students should be aware,” said Moss, chairman of the Finance Committee. “I just feel (the organizations) should be notified (prior to the release).”
At the beginning of the meeting, Moss addressed the audience of SA members and students. He explained a conflict of interest arose out of his being involved in the SA and CRS, so the meeting would be led by Vice Chairwoman Karen Gagnon (U-SPHHS).
Gagnon and the four other committee members questioned Oshana about the meaning of the bylaws. However, when Gagnon began to question Oshana’s intent in releasing the records, the meeting flew out of order and became a pitched shouting match. Gagnon, as chair of the meeting, banged her gavel repeatedly in a vain effort to restore order.
When cut off from speaking during a public comment portion of the meeting, Oshana stood up and abruptly left the auditorium.
“I wasn’t trying to investigate (Oshana),” said finance committee member Mohammed Ali (U-CCAS). “The problem is that everyone wants to bring out dirt.”
Ali said the release of the records would become an issue when they were made public. Hershfield had previously mentioned the student group records would be published in the Law School newspaper, the Nota Bene, of which Hershfield is the editor-in-chief.
Moss and Gagnon both said the issue of releasing student organization expenditures is something that needs to be clarified at a later date. They said the meeting, though abbreviated, had fulfilled its purpose.
“We’ve had the exchange of information,” Gagnon said. “The Finance Committee is happy and we want to move on.”