USG president questioned about funding

By Gus Bode

A candidate for student trustee has questioned his contender’s fiscal responsibility, bringing forth the information just in time for the student elections today and Wednesday.

Dylan Burns, a junior from Springfield studying history, said Monday he had serious concerns about his opponent, Undergraduate Student Government president Demetrous White. Burns cited what he believes is a relationship between White’s ties with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and a roughly 600-percent increase in USG’s funding of the fraternity.

“There’s no way, in my opinion, that can be innocent in any way,” Burns said, adding that he believes White has a political endorsement from the fraternity.

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According to USG records provided by White, Alpha Phi Alpha received $6,435 from USG in 2006-07. That number increased to $38,420 in 2007-08. All of the money allocated by the organization comes from the Student Activity fee, which costs each student roughly $36 per semester and totals more than $400,000 per year.

White defended himself, saying his role as USG president has no bearing on the finance committee. White also questioned how Burns would know he had ties to the fraternity.

Finance committee chair Stephen Albert, who is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, said USG offered more funding to the fraternity because so many people on campus attend its events. About $14,000 of the money would go to pay for rap artist Yung Byrd to perform at Saturday’s Spring Out BBQ, Albert added.

“Is that a big price jump? Yeah,” Albert said. “Did people come up with great ideas this year? Yeah. Should I penalize them? � Maybe tell them they shouldn’t put on events for the school?”

Albert became chair of the committee in January, when former chair Joe Yancey stepped down halfway through the year. Yancey said he had always followed the funding guidelines set for USG, but now saw that Alpha Phi Alpha might have received more than its due.

“Now that you’re telling me this, it does kind of sound suspicious,” Yancey said. “Whenever I was chair, we would just fund whoever came in really, base it on the attendance and how well they met the guidelines.”

Because White had been the committee’s chair the previous year, he sat on as an adviser and helped make decisions, Yancey said. He said White would encourage him to fund events such as the Miss Eboness competition – allocated $10,000 this year – but White’s support was not limited to Alpha Phi Alpha events.

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Burns said he took issue with White’s self-appointment as an adviser, because he said the president should not have a role in the finance committee’s decisions.

“He framed it to the senate as he was trying to help them along to better the process,” Burns said. “Clearly, he’s bettering the process in the name of the people that got him elected.”

Election commissioner John Teresi, who served as vice president two years ago, said he hadn’t seen enough information to know if White and the finance committee were corrupt. However, he said it would not be difficult for anyone in USG’s executive office to push through funding for favored groups.

He said the executive officer would need to make an agreement with the finance committee chair. Once the committee approves event funding, Teresi said, the senate trusts the committee’s judgment and rarely questions allocations.

That trust coupled with the support of the president could allow any group to skate through the organization with excessive funding.

“As long as you went through all those steps, it would be really easy (to manipulate the system),” Teresi said.

Burns said he thought White should be impeached as USG president.

“Regardless of whether or not he’s friends with (the fraternity) – he’s gone out of his way to usurp the constitution,” Burns said.

He said he brought the issue to the DAILY EGYPTIAN Monday because he had only heard about it a few days ago. Burns added that he initially hesitated to reveal the information before the elections, believing he would be accused of mudslinging.

USG presidential candidate Dave Loftus, a sophomore from Princeton studying political science, said he had heard concerns about White’s leadership from several senators who did not want to be named.

“Obviously after seeing these numbers, we need to look into a little more oversight,” Loftus said.

White said USG had given the fraternity a lot more money this year and he understood why the increase could look strange. But he said USG funds events and doesn’t take into account how much any group has received.

“It’s disappointing because it’s suggesting that we’re not doing things by the book,” White said. “Even if you disagree with my policies, you should at least agree that I’m fair with everything I do.”

Jennifer Arteaga, a senator representing the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, said she was one of several senators concerned about problems of corruption in USG.

“People are letting it slide by. Things that shouldn’t be happening are happening,” Arteaga said. “This is just untangling that web starting with finance, because that’s the most apparent issue.”

Arteaga said most of the senators are friends, and don’t want to impeach or punish each other for not upholding the rules.

But she said everyone, including White and herself, should be held accountable for the situation.

“I’m not going to lie. I’m still a little hesitant about investigating it as well,” Arteaga said. “At the same time, it’s not right. Regardless of whether they’re my friends or not, at the end of the day you have to do what’s right and what’s appropriate.”

Allison Petty can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 259 or [email protected]

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