Senate Notes: Vice Chancellor Called To Apologize

Gin Dumcius

Student Senate President Tuan Pham is demanding a public apology from Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance David MacKenzie for “mishanding” money from the Parking and Transportation Trust Fund.

A state audit the first week of school found that the university had wrongly used $200,000 out of the Parking Trust Fund for flowers and salaries. “Today we discover that our parking fees did not go towards improving our safety in the parking garage, but to decorate the University with flowers and to overtime pay for mailroom employees,” Pham wrote to the Student Senate.

An e-mail to MacKenzie seeking comment went unreturned at press time.

When asked about the matter, Chancellor Jo Ann Gora noted that the $200,000 was six percent of the fund, and there was “no impropriety,” chalking it up to “accounting errors.”

In his October 8 report, Pham stated that “faced with such damning evidence, the Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance did not publicly apologize to the University community for the wrong doings.”

Pham’s feelings stem from the academic year’s first University Faculty Council meeting in September, where MacKenzie gave his report, taking a “dismissive and arrogant tone, [turning] his attention to the ‘annoyed’ students frustrated with the parking fee increase who ordered the audit. In effect, [MacKenzie]’s real constituents are not us, the student body, but his finger-pointing ego.”

Pham, a College of Management student, stopped short of calling for MacKenzie’s resignation, stating that, “In a corporate setting, especially one of today, executives are immediately fired. The same principle must apply to our University. Vice Chancellor MacKenzie must publicly apologize to the Student Body.”

MassPIRG Under Fire

Still smarting from his recent defeat, Pham opened up a new front in his battles with the MassPIRG (Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group), charging the group with violating campus policies when collecting signatures in support of the organization and House Bill 2400.

House Bill 2400 is currently sitting in a House committee, and if passed, would probably wipe out funding for MassPIRG, and damage The Mass Media financially, since it switches opt-out fees on students’ tuition bills to opt-in. Pham and other members of the Student Senate have been trying to pass a resolution in support of H2400, calling it an “issue of fairness.” MassPIRG contends it’s an issue of student rights, where the legislature is trying to decide for the students whether it should be opt-in or opt-out.

Over the course of several days, MassPIRG canvassers from the group’s downtown offices were seen around the campus, asking students to sign in support of MassPIRG and against H2400.

Pham states that the petition was unclear as to whether people were signing in support of MassPIRG or against the House bill.

MassPIRG passed around copies of the petition, with a total of seven hundred names. Every two years, the student body votes to keep the fee, said Rebecca Smalls, chairwoman of MassPIRG, adding that every year MassPIRG is on the ballot, more students turn out than in other years.

MassPIRG was discussed at length during Open Forum. Said Student Senator William Roach, “It’s up to everybody to scrutinize their [tuition] bill.”

“There is nothing unfair about the way the bill is set up.”

Roll Call Proposal Roils Senators

After nearly a half-hour of debate, a bill to install a roll call system was postponed until the next senate meeting, October 22. The proposal for a roll call, which would mark down which way student senators voted on whatever came before the senate, has been spearheaded by Senator Jesse Solomon.

A pet project of his since early in the year, Solomon said the measure would “increase accountability” in the senate. Solomon at first proposed that each senator keep track of his or her own votes through an “honors system,” but amended his proposal after Director of Student Life Joyce Morgan suggested that it would be better that an administrator or senate secretary tally the votes. She also quickly put down the notion that the Student Senate was running around unchecked. “You’re supervised by Student Life,” she said.

Former senate president Joseph Panciotti, from the audience, stated that it would be “too time-consuming” and Robert’s Rules of Order, a set of rules governmental bodies use to hold meetings, suggests against it.

Pounding his fist on the table, a visibly frustrated Senator William Roach demanded a vote after twenty-five minutes of discussion. “Let’s vote on this now,” he said. “I don’t see why we should haggle over this.”

It was ultimately decided to postpone the vote until the next senate meeting, on October 22.

Funding Requests: Biology Club & Casa Latina

Casa Latina requested and received $6,250 for seven events spread out over one month. Events include an Open House/Latino Heritage Month presentation, a dance/music workshop, and a third annual Halloween party, according to the funding request form submitted by Casa Latina.

The Biology Club asked for $1,754 for a trip to the UMass Nantucket Field Station. The amount is said to cover much of the cost of transporting, feeding and housing fourteen undergraduates for four days and three nights. Michael Kenny, treasurer of the Bio Club, presented to the Student Senate the costs. Several senators had questions on the club’s status as recognized student organization (RSO). Kenny explained that the club had forgotten to re-apply to be a RSO, since members didn’t know clubs have to re-apply every semester. Kenny assured senators that this was the only funding the club was going to ask for this semester.