After criticizing Student Association President Omar Woodard for his pricey dinner at the Sequoia restaurant earlier in the year, this page was willing to write off the expense as a mistake committed by one individual. However, after a recent Hatchet investigation revealed SA officials spent a staggering $7,000 of student money on food at upscale D.C. restaurants in the last year, it is clear such spending is symptomatic of the SA’s crony culture.
Isolated in their Marvin Center offices, SA officials have lost sight of the fact that they are spending student money. As some in the SA lament the fact that they are unable to give more money to student groups, others are frivolously spending available dollars on themselves at several pricey District establishments. It is precisely this type of dogmatic nonsense that breeds widespread apathy and disgust in GW’s student government.
Those defending such spending will contend that because SA leaders volunteer their time all year to students, they are entitled to dine on student money. Elected and appointed officers should be privileged to serve students. Instead of breeding a culture of entitlement, cronyism and self-importance, student government leaders should simply look to serve students while expecting nothing more than the inherent rewards and benefits of such service, which are substantial.
At the center of the current controversy, SA leaders have exploited University-issued credit cards called P-Cards. Issued to both the president and executive vice president, P-Card transactions are billed directly to the SA and are not subject to the same review process as other expenditures. Last year, Executive Vice President Eric Daleo charged about $1,000 on his Card for two meals. Worse than the infraction itself is the fact that students only became aware of the expenditure in a Hatchet front-page story. To ensure SA leaders using P-Cards are held accountable, the University should provide an itemized summary of the charges to the Senate for approval.
Earlier in the semester, this page argued that during the execution of official business, SA members will inevitably need to purchase food with student funds. In light of the most recent revelations, however, it is clear the SA no longer deserves that right. Until SA officials prove they respect student money, they should not be permitted to spend a dime of it on themselves.
It is imperative SA officials once again recognize they are not government bureaucrats; they are merely students given a special opportunity to serve other students. Eliminating lavish spending and creating measures to ensure leaders are unable to do so in the future are necessary to repair the damage that continues to be done to the SA’s credibility.