Some Student Association members are accusing Sen. Ben Traverse (CCAS-U) of reversing his position after he refused to criticize the use of student funds to purchase food. Last month, Traverse sharply criticized SA President Omar Woodard’s use of $414 in student funds to buy dinner this summer at an upscale Georgetown restaurant, but is being accused of not holding others to the same standards.
Traverse joined Hilary Golston (CCAS-U) in abstaining from voting last week to approve a $75 food purchase made in September. The vote reimbursed Finance Committee chair Jordyn Cosme (CCAS-U) for pizza and Chinese food he bought in late September during the Senate’s budget allocation process.
Last month, Traverse, in criticizing Woodard for his $414 dinner at Sequoia restaurant, said he only supports the use of SA money in open meetings.
“I didn’t vote yes because that’s my principle on this matter, but I can’t vote no because I know he spent a lot of time working on this and I respect the job (Cosme’s) done as a senator,” Traverse said.
But some senators said Traverse should be condemning the use of student funds to purchase food.
Ryan Kilpatrick (ESIA-U), the lone vote against the Chinese food and pizza expenditure, said Traverse should be taking a stand on the issue, which he used to attack Woodard.
“It may be within his right to abstain, but I think it’s unfortunate he did so,” Kilpatrick said.
Any expenditure of more than $75 by a committee chair requires the approval of a majority of the Senate chairs and executive vice president Anyah Dembling. Committee chairs, including Traverse, the head of the Rules Committee, voted on the Chinese food and pizza expenditure in a closed-door meeting last week.
The Finance Committee made multiple purchases totaling $150 over two days on Chinese food and pizza, but the committee chairs only voted on the expenditures measuring more than $75.
Kilpatrick suggested that Traverse’s friendship with Cosme played a role in his decision, and added that senators should try to be unbiased when dealing with fiscal issues.
“I believe we should be watching over students’ money with an equal amount of ferocity, whether it be in the Senate or the executive. Whether the people we are examining be our friends or not,” Kilpatrick said.
Traverse disputed allegations that he abstained only because of his relationship with Cosme.
“This doesn’t come down to friendship I have with Jordyn, but rather a respect I have for him as finance chair and the hard work that he and his committee did in allocating budgets,” Traverse said, referring to the process of allocating funds to student groups.
Golston, who abstained and did not condemn other senators for spending SA money on food, said Traverse’s decision was wrong since he criticized Woodard last month.
“Whether he intended to do so or not, ideologically he did contradict himself,” Golston said. “I think people do change their minds and it is quite conceivable that Ben changed his mind about spending SA funds on food and is now making adjustments to his blanket statement that no funds should be spent on food.”
The Sequoia dinner and the Finance Committee’s expenditure are separate events, Traverse said, and must be looked at individually.
“(The Finance Committee) spent about $7 per person while the Sequoia dinner spent more than $50 per person and the transition dinner it was about $50 per person, and that’s when it’s totally not right,” he said.
Cosme defended his actions, saying that he was allocating budgets for almost 48 hours in what became a three-day process.
“I felt that when you’re in a position where you’re in a space for such an amount of time where you’re required to eat to keep going, we felt it was appropriate to buy food,” Cosme said.
Dembling also defended the expenditure as a responsible use of funding.
“I don’t have a problem with a committee who spends an entire 48 hours in the office ordering food,” Dembling said. “They’re not going crazy and throwing a party and buying alcohol or doing anything absurd; it’s just a snack to keep them going along the way.”
Dembling added that most other student organizations spend their funds on food and that the SA should not be held to a different standard.