Editor's note: The minutes from April 9's Cabinet meeting have since been released to TCU360, per Chancellor Boschini's request. You can listen to the meeting here.
According to the last portion of the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, democracy is a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege. Even though the Student Government Association at TCU isn’t necessarily a "government," we are supposed to uphold the notion of democracy. So why then was one person, or one small group of people, given the right to decide the proper way to spend $50,000 without the approval or even notice of any other branch within the SGA…? I am a member of the House of Representatives, and while many a story has been written concerning this issue, this might just be the first one with an inside view.
Rumors of the statue and its suspicious funding were brought to my attention almost a month ago. Upon first hearing of it, I was outraged that something like this could have been accomplished without notice or objection. The more I thought about it, however, I begin to have faith in our government and its leaders to make things right, and ensure that the appropriate people suffer the consequences for their actions.
As things begin to play out, though, I realized that this type of situation seemed easier to ignore for most rather than to confront and resolve. I was not only disappointed, but also very uneasy with how this situation was seemingly headed.
Things began to become uncomfortable upon the introduction of a bill to require majority approval from House on all financial decisions amounting to more than $15,000. Questions arose as to the origin for the creation of this piece of legislation and without further adieu, the response of the bill’s authors identified suspicion towards the actions of certain government officers.
The Student Memorial, a project initiative worked extensively on by current SGA vice president Joshua Simpson, was also discussed and exceedingly complimented by various members for the correct procedures followed to implement it. With previous knowledge of the questionable expenditures of our current president, I saw very clearly what was taking place during the entirety of this meeting.
Then, Oct. 23 was the day people started speaking up. I was unable to attend the meeting but was informed soon after of its events. In short, certain members of the student body came to voice their concerns. Though they were unable to speak on their topic of choice, they did actively participate in the debate portion of legislation.
The very next day, an article came out in the Skiff addressing the suspicions of Brent Folan and the statue directly, making the situation public knowledge. I assumed that there would be no denying the unethical actions taken at this point and that justice would be served. However, I was wrong.
Folan said that there was a vote in Cabinet to fund the statue. Yet, the records for such a vote no longer exist due to the secretary’s computer crashing this previous summer. The issue here is that the secretary of Cabinet is ironically enough Folan’s younger brother and even more concerning, as the SBC states, “the President is the one responsible for appointing a secretary to take minutes at all Cabinet meetings.”
Evidence supporting the crashing of Evan Folan’s computer mid summer has been provided, therefore proving his inability to provide these records as valid. What is even more disconcerting about this situation though are the guidelines concerning each Cabinet meeting’s minutes. It is stated in the SBC that all Cabinet meeting minutes must be sent to every Cabinet member and the advisors. Yet, none of them could provide a copy.
Furthermore, the SBC states: “meeting minutes or portions thereof shall be stored in the public records of the Student Government Association unless the Cabinet decides to prevent disclosure,” according to line 800. A project initiative, whether the vote was informal or formal, that amounts to $50,000 seems important enough to me to keep record of, so why is it not even stored on public record?
Maybe it wasn’t made significant note of because a vote never occurred. So then this obviously violates the SBC as it clearly states: “All requests for unbudgeted funds shall be approved by the Cabinet or the House of Student Representatives as a whole”.
On the other hand, if Folan truly is correct in claiming this statue as a “Cabinet initiative,” why was that $50,000 not classified as part of the Cabinet’s budget for the SGA Budget sheet for 2012-2013? While Cabinet is allowed to approve expenditures exceeding $100 without the approval of House, this expenditure must come from the budget assigned to CABINET. According to the official budget sheet approved by House last semester, the money allocated to Cabinet was only $5,000. If this statue was originally a Cabinet initiative, why wasn’t the money included in their budget then?
Nothing seems to be adding up in regards to the approval of the financing for this statue.
Not to mention, while there are few specifications for such funds, the Constitution does state any “funds in the residual by the end of the fiscal year shall be appropriated as the House may direct." As previously mentioned, I am a member of House, and we were not even informed of both the appropriation and the expenditure of these residual funds.
Moving on to Tuesday night's House meeting, there was an overwhelming attendance of the student body prepared to voice their questions and concerns. A motion was even made to begin the Impeachment process for Brent Folan.
Unfortunately, not a word was heard, with the exception of Jordan Mazurek who was the one to motion for Impeachment, from the students in attendance. There seemed to be confusion on when these students were allowed to speak.
According to House meeting procedure, the correct time for students to speak would be during "Speaker’s Forum." This is a time for members to speak on behalf of their constituents and of community events. However, this may not always be clearly communicated with students and they don't know when they're allowed to speak.
Clearly the actions of a certain member or even members are in violation of the SBC or the Constitution, possibly even both. While this is disappointing, especially as a fellow member of those responsible, it is an issue that I understand must be addressed and resolved.
Just as the actions of those few football players identified with drugs and drug use threatened to discredit our football team as a whole, I fear this issue will demean SGA collectively. I want to let students know that their representatives are not blind to what has and is occurring. I want them to know that we will and are doing everything in our power to make things right.
For me personally, I am already developing a way for students to voice their thoughts, concerns, and questions to all of House in person. Whether that means redefining certain aspects of meeting procedure, or creating an informal Town Hall type meeting, it will happen.
I joined House not only to represent the student body, but also to listen to them, defend them, and fight for them when injustice has occurred. Part of being a leader requires a strong sense of morals and ethics, and while this may be lacking within a select few, I want the student body to know it is certainly not absent from SGA as a whole. After all, our student creed does state “leading with integrity” does it not?
With that being said, I beg each and every one of you to, when SGA Election Day finally arrives, remember the importance of integrity above all.