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Finance board chooses not to disclose recusals

By Dmaron

Section: News

October 12, 2007

Responding to several inquiries from The Hoot, the Finance Board chose not to discuss which of its members recused themselves during the Fall Marathon in September. During that period, the F-board allocated over $186,000 of the Student Activities Fund amongst 97 clubs according to the treasurer's website, thetreasureer.org.

I had a lengthy discussion with other members of the Finance Board, and several of them are not comfortable with me releasing to The Hoot the specific clubs that they recused themselves from during decision making. They feel that this is too personal to be published in a campus newspaper, said F-board Chair Max Wallach 09.

He continued, I will tell you that the F-board used our own discretion on recusing ourselves from the process, and at the very least, no F-board member made a decision for a club on which he or she is on the E-board. Wallach did not respond to e-mails asking to clarify his position.

Director of Union Affairs Jason Gray 10 stated that the F-board is independent of the Executive Board of the Student Union. While [Union Presidnet] Shreeya has the power to veto specific allocations of the Finance Board, we respect its autonomy and don't plan on telling it how to run its operations.

He added, we are confident that F-board members are very careful to recuse themselves if there is a potential conflict of interest. As far as I am aware, no member ever votes on an issue if they are on the Executive Board of that club that is requesting funds.

Student Union Treasurer Choon Woo Ha 08 said, I think Max is right. I think it really depends on individual person to decide whether they want to reveal for which clubs they recused themselves or notmore of a person decision.

Ha added, I can tell you that Finance Board members who were elected or appointed as members of the Executive Board of certain clubs recused themselves from making decisions. When they are requesting for money (giving a presentation to the F-board), they may speak on behalf of the club. However, during decision-making process, which occurs after the F-board meets with all clubs, they did not vote at all nor try to influence the decision of the Finance Board.

Student reaction to the F-boards response was mixed. Nicole Munro 08 stated that, I think anything that deals with money for the whole student body is not a personal decision. The F-board members clubs memberships and recusal status should be made public.

Munro added that I can see how it would be a privacy issue for individual F-board members if they were in, for example, TRISK or a religious club and didnt want to disclose this information to the student body, but if they dont want to disclose this information they should at least have to recuse themselves. Mainly I would just say there should be full disclosure.

Desiree Schwartz 09 agreed. I think transparency is always a good thing;

the F-board should have to declare their membership to all clubs so people can watch if clubs [F-board members] are involved in are given special attention.

Meanwhile, Emily Leifer 11 said that individual members should not be forced to share their club status and whether or not they recuse themselves [while] I dont think there should be an official policy forcing members to do so, it should be encouraged though.

Ben Gellman-Chomsky 08 said that Im not sure what the personal reasons could be, but if we take Wallachs assertion that any E-board members recused themselves from the voting on that club the potential for malfeasance is much lower. This seems an acceptable if not ideal method of insuring personal responsibility and maintaining an environment where conflict of interest is not tolerated.

It shouldn't be up to the F-board whether or not to recuse themselves, said Brendan Doris-Pearce 08, in regards to Wallachs statement. If they're a member of a club they should not get to vote on their club's funding.

If everyone excused themselves from every possible conflict of interest situation, then I see no reason as to why they should feel as though this information is too personal, added Josh Mervis 08. The specific actions of any group of students with such monetary power over our club life need to be readily available to the public in the event that it is requested.

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