Updated: Nov. 21, 2017 at 1:59 p.m.
The Student Association Senate passed a resolution nearly unanimously Monday calling on top officials to more wisely spend University funds after the half-million-dollar price tag of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s inauguration drew criticism last week.
LeBlanc was inaugurated as GW’s 17th president Nov. 13 as part of a three-day series of events commemorating a new presidential era.
The resolution, which passed by a vote of 25-4, demands that the University release a complete annual fiscal budget and spending report, refocus funds toward programs that have recently been hurt by budget cuts in recent years – like music, arts, English and history – and increase student involvement in the inaugural steering committee.
SA President Peak Sen Chua was the only student on the 29-member committee that oversaw the inauguration. Students were invited to every event surrounding the inauguration except for a faculty reception at LeBlanc’s F Street residence.
The resolution was also amended to encourage the University to hold events focused on building community and make clear the specific vision and strategy of an incoming president during the inauguration’s advertisement and execution.
Sen. Will Raderman, U-At-Large, sponsored the resolution because he said spending about $500,000 on events for the inauguration was irresponsible and that students deserve to know how the University is using its funds.
“This resolution will be condemning or disagreeing on how the spending has been used for this event and suggesting that they are more frugal with their spending in the future,” he said. “I do hope that this is the first step to discussing more specifics about where the spending is going.”
Raderman added that while he commends LeBlanc’s financial transparency, he wants the resolution to shed light on the importance of including students in the conversation to plan future events.
Lorraine Voles, the vice president for external relations, said when planning events, the University keeps in mind how to “best balance the needs of our community and available resources.”
“We are conscious of the need to act in a fiscally responsible manner and we endeavor to always do so,” she said in an email Tuesday.
The senate also voted not to reinstate Sen. Joe Vogel to his U-At-Large position. Vogel was suspended earlier this month following four consecutive absences from committee meetings.
Prior to the vote, Vogel had said he would be “shocked” to not be reinstated.
He said that despite his absences, he wanted to continue to work on initiatives that he ran on during his campaign, like better utilizing the University’s 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue property for student-run businesses.
Following the vote not to reinstate Vogel, Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, circulated a petition to suspend him, an action required by the SA’s bylaws. The petition needed at least 14 signatures to prevent Vogel from petitioning for reinstatement again at the next senate meeting.
The petition received 15 signatures and began the senate removal process, which will include a hearing to determine whether Vogel can continue serving in the senate.
“I ran on an extensive platform of ideas based on concerns that students had, and I felt honored to have already gotten the opportunity to work on some of those issues,” he said. “I wish that the senate had given me the opportunity to continue working on these issues.”
He added that while he missed committee meetings for other priorities, he never missed a general senate meeting.
Executive Vice President Sydney Nelson also announced that debate about a bill to reform the Joint Elections Committee – the student body that oversees SA, Program Board and Class Council elections – will be pushed until the SA’s next meeting Dec. 4 to allow time for public comment on proposed changes.
In September, the senate voted to form a committee comprised of eight graduate senators to examine the JEC’s governing structure following the stalking and harassment scandal that rocked last year’s SA presidential election. The committee had until Monday to introduce proposed changes to the JEC.
“This way it gives students time to look on our website and to look at it, reach out to their senators to make sure their voices are represented,” Nelson said. “We want to have a chance to get feedback.”