Staff Editorial: SA should answer for purchases

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September 16, 2008

3:28 PM

Two weeks ago, former Student Assembly Vice President Zach Pilchen ’09 resigned in the face of campus outrage over his use of SA funds for personal purchases — but that has solved little of the mystery surrounding the SA’s off-campus account. SA members promised to investigate and then, by and large, went mute.

Students deserve to know how and where SA money was spent over the course of the past year.
In the last two weeks, our reporters have pored over what scant documentation exists, finding that only a couple people know exactly what was purchased and why — and those people won’t talk. There are no records detailing the purchases beyond bank statements that identify where the purchases occurred. With few exceptions, SA members have refused to comment on the affair, and those who have say they don’t know anything. But students need answers and transparency if they are to trust their elected leaders.

If nothing else, these two weeks of investigation have proven that the SA’s off-campus account had never before received intense scrutiny. That’s troubling, given that more than $20,000 was at stake — even more so because the attached debit card has turned up in suspicious places. Like Wawa. On Dec. 8, 2007, records indicate a purchase of $4.79 there. And then Feb. 13, 2008, the card appeared in Bloom for another $8.39. Why did nobody in the SA notice these? Why can’t anybody tell us who made the purchases or what they were?

Someone, somewhere, oversaw this spending. But nobody’s talking.

Former SA Secretary of Finance Andrew Blasi ’10 was one of those overseers. His job (which he resigned from last semester) specifically required his attention to this account, yet he refuses to discuss it. Yael Gilboa ’11, his replacement, refuses to talk as well.

SA President Valerie Hopkins ’09 has been willing to talk, but she can’t account for what Pilchen purchased or who he might have let borrow the card. An explanation could potentially exonerate the SA and its members, but none appears forthcoming.

This stonewalling from people connected to the account leads us to believe that Pilchen’s case has come before the Honor Council. The nature of the Honor Council’s proceedings requires secrecy due to a federal law, which may prevent those in the know from discussing the way money flowed through the account. But a pending Honor Council trial doesn’t exonerate Pilchen from answering to the students he served about other questionable purchases that occurred while he was in charge of the debit card.

We urge the SA permanently to revert back to its former system of using written checks to make purchases from the account, as this system seems harder to abuse. We also urge the SA to keep written records of exactly what is purchased and why.

When students elected their leaders, they expected transparency. Currently, it appears they’ve been shortchanged.

Editorial Staff

Austin Wright, Editor-in-Chief

Jeff Dooley, Managing Editor

Alice Hahn, Executive Editor

Brian Mahoney, Online Editor

Andy Peters, Editorial Writer

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