John McCormack: Why the SA president does not deserve $15,000 of your money

GW as a whole consumes an unhealthy amount of pork. No, I’m not talking about the delicious carnitas in Chipotle burritos. I’m talking about the ungodly amount of money spent by the Student Association on frivolous projects that benefit a few at the expense of all.

Over the years, the SA executive has developed an ever more insatiable appetite for spending student money on pork-barrel projects, with this year’s budget including $13,000 for Colonial Coach shuttles to airports during the holidays, $1,000 for condoms in residence halls and $1,400 for an SA transition banquet. Perhaps more offensive than these expenditures, however, is the $15,000 scholarship that the SA president receives from the University.

The scholarship is a slap in the face to every student leader who works long and thankless hours to make this University and the world a better place without receiving a dime. It’s also offensive to the SA Senators and staffers who receive no monetary compensation for their time and effort. Moreover, the scholarship very likely increases the SA president’s sense of entitlement to spend other students’ money as he or she sees fit.

Nicole Capp is the only SA presidential candidate who stated in an interview that she would attempt to direct the scholarship money to students. “I would meet with (Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou) Katz and ask him to direct the $15,000 to cover the SA’s office expenses, so more money could go to student organizations,” Capp said. David “Tito” Wilkinson said that he would be “open to the idea” of directing the scholarship money to student organizations but declined to discuss any definitive actions. Marc Abanto said he believes the scholarship is warranted, but added that he is unsure of what the SA president can do to re-distribute it.

Michael Ray Huerta defended the scholarship, noting that other student leaders such as the chair of Program Board and the editor of The Cherry Tree receive scholarships from the University. While each activity scholarship presents its own debate, the SA president more than anyone else should seek to embody the role of the humble citizen legislator, one who serves the student body without compensation rather than one who works for the University for monetary gain.

Casey Pond offered the most serious support for the scholarship, pointing out that eliminating it might discourage less-wealthy students from running. “I personally don’t have the money to go to GW. I have to work to pay my bills … I want to give the presidency my all and having to work while doing it would be difficult,” Pond said. “I think the SA presidency is a full-time job.”

It would be wrong to make personal wealth a prerequisite to running for the SA presidency. But the post should not in any way be a “full-time job.” There are plenty of students who work for pay, in addition to working 15 to 20 hours per week at internships and being involved in student groups. How much time does the SA president need to perform duties? If he or she cuts back on hours in the office, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing, especially in the minds of those who believe in the Jeffersonian dictum that the government that governs least, governs best.

The $15,000 that the SA president receives is only one example of wasteful spending at this University. When compared to the estimated $75,000 spent on laser light shows at Colonial Inauguration, the scholarship doesn’t seem so sickening. But fiscal responsibility begins somewhere – and it should begin with students.

When University President-elect Steve Knapp assumes his duties next year, various GW bureaucracies will work to stop the new guy from taking the scalpel to their budgets. We need to send the message that it’s okay to use a butcher knife. Thousands of students are repulsed by wasteful spending and would feel less alienated by the University if their money were directly going to further their education and not to buy another flat screen TV for the Marvin Center.

We shouldn’t accept wasteful spending from GW administrators, and we certainly shouldn’t accept it from our own student leaders.

-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs and history, is a Hatchet columnist.

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