According to the USG constitution, the USG Senate must approve all appropriations from the Projects Board, the funding branch, in excess of $1,000. At the USG Senate meeting Sunday night, USG members questioned why a report of Projects Board expenditures included $1,800 and $1,200 expenses that had not been approved by the full Senate.
However, the leaders of both the USG and the Projects Board said late Sunday night they were unsure whether this was a constitutional violation or was instead an appropriate work-around given the uncertainty of funding from other sources.
At the meeting, the USG disclosed the Projects Board’s September expense report and found that the Projects Board had distributed $1,800 to the Princeton Equality Project’s Awareness Week and $1,200 to the Princeton Disabilities Awareness’ Sixth Annual Conference.
Neither of these projects had been approved by the USG, which seemed to violate Article 3, Section E of the student government’s constitution.
Projects Board chair Jack Ching ’13 explained in an interview that the Projects Board had appropriated the funds with the expectation they would be reimbursed by a source called the Venture Fund, which Ching said he believed is administered by the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life. Ching said the Venture Fund would make two transfers of $800 and $200 back to the Projects Board, which would reduce its total expenditure to $1,000 for both projects, in line with the USG constitution’s guidelines.
Ching said that because it was the beginning of the year, the Projects Board was not certain whether it would be able to access Venture Fund resources. While the Projects Board waited for verification from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Projects Board approved the $1,800 and $1,200 funding requests.
Ching explained that this was a “special case,” and that normally, Projects Board expenditure reports would specify that they had only granted $1,000 while the excess funding came from external sources. The Projects Board was only able to verify that they would have Venture Fund money on Thursday.
As a result, the report presented at Sunday night’s meeting reflected the $1,800 and $1,200 expenditures. Ching called the confusion an “honest mistake” and noted that “a mistake was made.”
Neither Ching nor USG president Bruce Easop ’13 could say Sunday night whether the Projects Board expenditure constituted a violation of the USG constitution.
Easop explained in an interview that he was unsure whether the $1,800 had actually been spent by the Projects Board. If the money was spent, he said, then he believed it would be unconstitutional.
However, Easop said the Projects Board had not made a mistake as it ultimately only provided $1,000 in USG funds to each of the two groups.
Ching also said he not sure whether the funding had actually been distributed to the two student groups, saying he would have to check the Projects Board’s transaction records.
“The actual financial transaction happens in the ODUS office and we have no control over what happens,” Ching said. “There are various stages to move the money from the Projects Board account.”
Ching did say that while he is uncertain whether the expenditure has formally happened yet, the funding had already been voted on and approved by the Projects Board, which could contradict the USG constitution.
“Senate approval is required for all grants made by the Projects Board which are greater than $1000,” the USG constitution reads.
It is unclear whether the Projects Board made the grant by approving the request or whether the grant is only made once the money has left the Projects Board’s account.
At the meeting Sunday night, USG members expressed confusion at the report that appeared to indicate the Projects Board did not seek approval for its $1,800 and $1,200 expenditures.
“Where was the break in the chain?” Class of 2014 senator Dillon Sharp ’14 asked. “We need to know where the mistake happened.”
Easop said the committee would look into the oversight. USG treasurer Lillie Cartwright ’14 assured the committee that the rest of the expenses are “reasonable for the start of the year.”
USG also approved $2,175 for free fitness classes per semester. This funding includes 10 weekly group fitness classes on Friday nights and Saturdays during the day, marketing and postering on campus, punch card giveaways and T-shirts.
Undergraduate Life Committee chair Adi Rajagopalan ’13 explained that the funding would mostly cover free giveaways, which he said are crucial for the success of the fitness classes. “They found last year that when they gave away free giveaways, attendance spiked,” he explained.
The funding was approved in a unanimous vote with all 23 members in attendance voting in favor.
Projects manager Greg Smith ’15 presented the 40-page midyear report that will be released later this week. The report included letters from the USG executive committee, reports from the various USG committees and a full list of completed and notable upcoming projects.
While reviewing the report, Easop drew attention to specific goals he has for this year. “A few things we tried to emphasize this semester are building connections, communications and transparency, and fiscal transparency,” he said.
U-Councilors Hae Bin Kim ’13 and Elektra Alivisatos ’14 presented a report from the Council of the Princeton University Community’s meeting on Oct. 1. The report from the CPUC meeting included information about the Office of Disability Services, academic integrity and the academic calendar.
“[The Office of Disability Services] have been doing a lot of mental health issue-related things,” Kim explained. Though the office used to deal mostly with preexisting mental health conditions, Kim said it is now dealing more with students who developed disabilities while at the University.
In regards to the academic calendar, the USG discussed the possibility of moving final exams to before winter break. According to Kim, University President Shirley Tilghman told the USG that the issue was brought up six years ago but there was no real consensus. In order for the change to be seriously considered at this time, the USG would have to prove support from the University community and demonstrate a need to move exams, Kim said.
There was a suggestion to consider canceling classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and most of the USG members agreed that the day off was needed. However, Academics chair Steven Rosen ’13 explained that students would then likely take the entire week of Thanksgiving off.
Looking forward, the USG will be holding Freshman Council elections this week. Students can begin voting online today.
News Editor Teddy Schleifer contributed reporting.
Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misstated the timing of the USG Senate elections. The election for Senate will take place later this semester. The 'Prince' regrets the error.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/09/31417/