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Students rally SA for greater transparency

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A group of students who gathered outside the Student Association office Wednesday afternoon were applauded by members of the senate later that day after calling for greater financial transparency within the organization.

Turning Point USA, a non-profit organization committed to fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government, organized the rally that attracted a dozen students.

“Will all those who participated in the rally earlier today stand up please,” said Jerlisa Fontaine, SA president, during the organization’s weekly meeting Wednesday night.

Members of TPU, who were in attended Wednesday’s meeting seeking an appropriations request from SA, received a round of applause from the organization’s senate.

“Honestly, I love it,” said Sen. Nick Gonzalez of the rally. “I’m just really proud that all these students are doing this and I really hope more students see their cause and believe in their cause and support their cause.”

Sen. Mitchell Rybak, chairman of the Board of Finance, echoed similar sentiments, noting that any information students want to see is publicly available upon request.

“I’m glad it happened,” he said. “We really should be held accountable. There’s not an excuse why we shouldn’t be.”

Earlier that afternoon Fontaine meet with protesters who held signs that read “Where’s my money?” and voiced concerns that pertained to a recent diversity conference in New Orleans attended by SA leadership during Mardi Gras and SA expenditures.

Several protestors, including Joshua Lee, a political science major and vice president of TPU, suggested SA provide students with weekly expenditure reports so those paying the student activity fee can better understand how their money is being spent.

“Two-hundred dollars may seem like a day or two at work,” said Lee of the student activity fee in a subsequent interview. “But when you’re supporting yourself or you don’t have a strong family foundation, it really makes sense that you’re describing where it goes.”

Fontaine explained she understood student concern over SA finances, but providing weekly expenditure reports was not possible.

“There’s really no way possible to present every single transaction made,” said Fontaine. “We would need to hire 10 comptrollers.”

According to SA bylaws, the comptroller’s office is required to provide the senate with a bi-weekly internal expenditure report which are to be archived on the organization’s website. No such reports can be found on SA’s website as of writing.

Fontaine’s administration this semester has been heavily criticized by senators after $500 was spent on Uber rides while attending the National Student Leader Diversity Conference in New Orleans during Mardi Gras season.

Sen. Anna Agnes, chair of Government Operations, labelled the trip as a “waste of money” and proposed a recently passed bylaw amendment that aims to put an oversight on conference line spending.

“I think the rally was very productive,” said Fontaine in an interview following the rally. “I’m glad they were able to get the answers to their questions.”

Lee saw the meeting as productive but would have liked to see more from Fontaine and the organization as a whole.

“At the end of the day, it’s just politics,” he said. “She’s going to say what she has to say to make the organization look good and we’re going to say what we have to say to get our point across.”

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Chad Arnold is a reporter for the Albany Student Press covering Student Association affairs. He is also an die-hard heavy metal fan.

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