Letter to the editor: GSB’s presidential account writes a story of self-policing

Jared Knight

If you’ve been reading the Daily lately, you’ve seen stories about the Government of the Student Body and the Executive Initiative Account. There has been some misrepresentation about the facts surrounding this account, misrepresentation that has made it appear I’ve misused student fees, and as president of the government, I’m here to clear the air.

The current account balance is $1043.55 and $327.45 was spent building a wall to create a meeting space in the Memorial Union for all students and student organizations. $129 was spent on a portion of a retreat for the Executive Cabinet, with the other half of costs covered by cabinet members. Three additional charges for pizza and art were reimbursed, as was the clear intention at the time of purchase.

The account first received attention when we proposed transferring surplus office supply funds to the Executive Initiative Account. We ended last year about $2,000 under budget, but due to established procedure that money stayed in the operating budget and required a senate vote to move it from a place where it can be spent on paper clips and staples to an account where it can be used to improve student life, fund student groups and take on other initiatives. The senate and I agreed that before funds are transferred, there should be more transparency on the account.

Following that meeting, I voluntarily placed restrictions on the account while the senate worked on an agreeable bylaw change. Their first attempt at a change failed, but after an impassioned case by the finance director concerned about the imminent account audit, the bylaw passed with the intention of reconsidering it the following week.

The next morning, I consulted with the university’s business and finance office and was surprised to hear that following the procedure laid out in the bylaws, it has always been compliant. Based on that determination, the principle of a one-week bylaw, and the senate’s original failure of the bylaw, I vetoed.

We all agreed there needed to be additional oversight and notification mechanisms on the account, and we put measures in place to ensure both while we decide on the best long-term solution. As much as some would like this to be a story about government corruption or shady dealings, it’s a story about self-policing, and the seriousness with which we approach the use of student fee dollars. Students have always been the focus of the Executive Initiative Account and students will continue to be our No. 1 priority when spending student fees.