University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg took heat at a recent Faculty Senate meeting for handing out a University-sponsored loan to the daughter of a multi-millionaire former Washington Redskins owner. Ultimately, the discretionary funds under the control of top-level administrators, such as the funds used to provide the aforementioned loan, send a convoluted message to students at a time of program cuts and high tuition.
Money has been on the minds of almost everyone at GW over the past year, as GW has rolled back programs such as free newspapers in residence halls and attained the infamous position as the most expensive university in the nation. Students are used to hearing that the budget is tight, and that cuts may very well continue. At the same time, discretionary accounts for administrators seem to continue unabated.
Administrators’ personal accounts are common in many organizations and may be completely necessary to GW’s effective operation. When these funds are used to provide personal loans, however, those used to hearing the standard line about tight funds may be extremely confused. These accounts have the potential to fuel a negative perception at a time when money is on everyone’s mind. This money may very well be seen as a backhanded way to reward those individuals or groups in favor with GW leadership.
To mitigate this perception, administrators should come forward about this money and discuss its use with the student body. If students and staff know how much money is given out, where it goes and why it is given out, there is likely to be less of a negative reaction to its allocation.
Being the most expensive school in the country means that GW is under increasing pressure to worry about its image in the public eye. There is perhaps no better place to start than with full disclosure and information about personal accounts that go to various individuals and causes.
If the GW community is not made more aware of this monetary system, more questions and confusion about the University’s true budgetary situation are likely to surface. In addition to dealing with negative press about its costs and a presidential transition, GW needs to do its best to prevent doubts about how its money is spent. Disclosure about administrative accounts is certainly one way to accomplish this goal.