Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Khanna’s complaint narrowly passes SGA vote

By Sam Butterfield

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Commuter Senator Derek Khanna’s complaint alleging misuse of Student Government Association funds by last year’s SGA administration was put to a vote Wednesday night in a regular SGA meeting, passing 11-to-10 with 10 senators abstaining from voting.

The complaint, which Khanna circulated to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jean Kim as well as SGA members and others, originally carried a deadline for response of October 18, but that deadline passed without further movement.

The 53-page complaint seeks an internal investigation into the alleged use of SGA funds to print and sell t-shirts to benefit the Committee for Justice for Jason, as well as asking for a university review of the matter and a University of Massachusetts Police Department and Northwestern District Attorney review. The complaint also calls for greater transparency in disclosing how Student Activities Trust Fund (SATF) monies are used.

On Wednesday in the Cape Cod Lounge, the SGA voted on a number of addendums, but Khanna’s legislation proved the most contentious and the most impactful.

With its passage, the complaint calls for SGA President Ngozi Mbauwike to appear at the next SGA meeting, set for November 4, to both present a legislative agenda and “to discuss the serious outstanding allegations of misuse of student funds,” according to the text of the motion. The complaint also asks the SGA to perform “an exhaustive internal investigation to determine what happened regarding this complaint, and to provide an official response to the allegations listed to the SGA, Vice Chancellors’ office, UMPD, and the District Attorney’s Office,” according to the motion.

Khanna said the vote and the Vice Chancellor’s investigation gave credence to his allegations and that he hopes it will result in greater transparency in the SGA.

“I hope that they conduct a full investigation and that they take it seriously,” he said.

He continued to say that he believes an investigation will shed more light on this matter and fully illuminate the details which have often been hazy throughout this investigation.

“I’m pretty positive that there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned,” he said, “students don’t know how much of their funds were stolen, how much was involved, when this took place,” he elaborated.

Khanna went on to say that he hopes Mbauwike’s expected legislative speech will bring more accountability to student government.

“This is the first time in history that an SGA president has been legally forced to come before the senate, that will give us the ability to ask what we need,” he said.

SGA Speaker Modesto Montero said the results were less binding than Khanna indicated and that the actions Khanna was requesting were not yet concrete.

“What took place was [Khanna] demanding more action take place outside of his complaint,” Montero said, “what this motion was pretty much demanding was that both the president give her legislative agenda, and also to further explain to the student body what steps she and her administration took to respond to these allegations.”

Montero intimated that Mbauwike could still veto Khanna’s complaint if she choses.

“Obviously she still has the veto power,” he said, “she might veto that motion.”

Beyond the SGA’s vote on the matter, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Jean Kim, along with Associate Vice Chancellor Jo-Anne Vanin and Associate Vice Chancellor Byron Bullock, responded to Khanna’s complaint with an October 15 statement on the matter.

The statement from the Dean of Students Office holds that there was insufficient evidence to charge any mentioned students with violations of the Code of Student Conduct, although the letter mentioned that the three students named still enrolled “will be asked to meet with the Dean of Students Office to discuss the complaint.”  

The document also states that the Center for Student Development “conducted a thorough audit of all funds involved and, based on our findings, there was no clear evidence that the tee shirts were sold either for donations or outright purchases.”

It continues to say that there was no way to document any alleged deposits from the SGA to the Justice for Jason defense fund.

Khanna’s complaint also asks for the Dean’s office to be provided a list of students who may have violated the code of student conduct and for a list to be turned over to the UMPD for investigation, which Dean Kim’s office decided not to do.

Lastly, the statement provides several recommendations to avoid such situations in the future.

Student organizations will now need to provide purchase requests with details explaining the purpose of expenditures, which will need to be reviewed by an advisor in the Center for Student Development.

The CSD will consider sanctions for organizations which violate the new expenditure policies. CSD business staff will work with the SGA Ways and Means Committee to establish clear guidelines for what is acceptable use of the Student Activities Trust Fund, in addition to recommending that the SGA create a treasurer position.

The SGA’s Secretary of Finance will create a manual for organizations, detailing appropriate use of fee and revenue monies, and the CSD has appointed an SGA advisor to provide oversight, and has appointed a graduate assistant to aid the Ways and Means Committee.

President Mbauwike did not return a phone call requesting comment in time for press.

Sam Butterfield can be reached at [email protected]


6 Responses to “Khanna’s complaint narrowly passes SGA vote”

  1. Derek Khanna on October 30th, 2009 12:05 am


    The SGA President cannot veto a motion requiring her to speak to the SGA, I would think that would be self-evident but it’s in the by-laws as well.

    And I was not demanding more action, I was demanding… ANY action.

    UMASS funds were stolen, it’s time for accountability.

  2. Derek Khanna on October 30th, 2009 12:30 am

    In addition, I’d like to note that it’s not my complaint. It was signed by the majority of SGA Governors, and numerous Senators. In total 31 student leaders were official legal signatories, with another 30 or so involved. This was a broad based complaint demanding action.

    The Vice Chancellor agreed with our allegations as to the veracity of the actions.

    The SGA should no longer steal money to pay for the Jason Vassell campaign, should explain who was involved, and the exact amount stolen. This information should be reported to each student and the District Attorney for their investigation.

  3. Anonymous on October 31st, 2009 3:59 pm

    Look, folks, there are purchase orders with signatures on them. I have seen them. The now defunct Minuteman Newspaper obtained the paper trail on this and has Justice for Jason dead to rights on this one.

    The problem is twofold. First, SATF funds may only be used to benefit currently-enrolled undergraduate students. Vassell is no longer a student, and wasn’t one last year. So to use SATF funds to benefit him, directly or indirectly, is a violation of the trust rule.

    Second, the _Southworth_ decision requires equal access to the same resource (SATF funds). Hence, if it becomes allowable to spend a few thousand dollars to advocate for one arrested UMass student, it becomes a requirement to spend the same amount to advocate for EVERY OTHER ARRESTED UMASS STUDENT. This isn’t just “Justice for Brad DeFlumeri” but also “justice” for Suzie who got tagged for OUI and Larry who was arrested for being loud.

    Every defense attorney would love to have the free publicity of a T-Shirt handout. And even if they were technically “donations” in exchange for the shirts, any defendant would love to have large amounts of money “donated” to the defense effort.

    There is, however, an even larger issue involved – that of Student Bridges. As the _Minuteman_ documented, there were significant amounts of money spent on very questionable things, including even the textbooks of a particular graduate student.

    Derek is going to the wrong persons: he should be going to the state auditor…

  4. Malcolm Chu on November 2nd, 2009 1:45 pm

    I don’t understand why this is a big deal, we took $50,000 of student fees and bought t-shirts and donated all the proceeds to the Jason Vassell campaign. We based the operation in the SGA office. He was the victim of a hate crime guys!! Next time this happens, we’ll be smarter not to get caught.

  5. A Treasurer for a RSO on November 2nd, 2009 2:20 pm

    “The CSD will consider sanctions for organizations which violate the new expenditure policies. CSD business staff will work with the SGA Ways and Means Committee to establish clear guidelines for what is acceptable use of the Student Activities Trust Fund, in addition to recommending that the SGA create a treasurer position.”

    RSO: definition according to title 6 – For the purpose of Title VI of the By-laws of the SGA, unless otherwise specified, the term “RSO” shall refer to all groups having an account within the SATF system.

    RSO’s already have fairly clear guidelines on what we can use the SGA money for(one thing we can’t use it for is T-Shirts):
    If we don’t use the money for the described reasons are we not already subject to sanctions?
    If so then why are students the only ones being sanctioned?

  6. Chris James on November 3rd, 2009 2:05 am

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.