Many people were surprised last week by the news that former Student Assembly Vice President Zach Pilchen used SA funds for personal expenditures. I wasn’t.
I don’t mean to pass any judgment on Pilchen’s character. I’ve known him four years, and, with the exception of last week, have respected what he has tried to do for students and for the community.
People close to the SA, including a columnist in this newspaper, have tried to portray this as an isolated incident, imploring us to focus instead on the good things the SA has done, and how great a job it does representing each and every one of us. I’d love nothing more than to believe this, but the evidence simply isn’t there.
What Pilchen did, and the subsequent maneuvering by other SA members to expose his error, are emblematic of an organization that more closely resembles a daytime soap opera than a governing body with any legitimacy.
Try to imagine an organization full of arrogant, self-important individuals with no real legislative power, who double-cross and backstab each other, who spend their class time on their laptops wondering what “bill” they can pass at the next meeting to make themselves look good, who ponder how best to pad their resume, and who run for “office” in part to add extra titles to their names.
I know it’s hard to picture, but just bear with me.
Remember, this is the same SA that used its funds to hire a limousine to take students to vote in a Williamsburg City Council election last spring. It was a historic time, and the city and the College are better off as a result of Matt Beato’s efforts. But did voters really need a limo? If Beato was unable to mobilize enough students to become involved, as it now seems in hindsight, would a limo shuttle really have made any difference? Why didn’t they throw Eliot Spitzer’s entire social club in the back of the limo while they were at it?
Then there’s the bill that Sen. Matt Pinsker ’09 proposed at the most recent senate meeting, which would allocate $2,500 for hiring limousines to annually transport students to polling stations on election days. Either the student body at the College has never heard of democracy and voting, or the SA is just bored. The only bigger waste of SA money that I can think of would be cigarettes and movie tickets to “Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay.” Oops, that one already happened, too.
This is the same SA that holds meetings that sometimes turn into shouting matches more reminiscent of kindergarteners fighting over the yellow magic marker than elected representatives debating how best to help the College. One of the more memorable stories of SA idiocy took place in the spring of 2006, when senators threatened to sue one another over petty matters of protocol. After recommending that someone file a lawsuit following a secret ballot vote, the senate chair was harshly criticized by the SA vice president, who repeatedly told him to “just shut up.”
But my absolute favorite goes back to February 2007, when senators opened charity gifts that were intended for needy children in the area and started playing with them instead. An irate Amanda Norris ’07, then vice president, ripped the responsible senator in an e-mail: “Please, for the love of God, stop taking this job as a joke and be respectful to the students who voted for you.” She might as well have been talking to the entire SA.
I was going to write about the accomplishments of the SA, but my editor told me that the column had to exceed 50 words. The only thing that comes to mind is free blue books, which probably saves each student enough to buy one pack of Camel Lights from Wawa, or maybe enough to rent ‘Harold and Kumar.’
Pilchen could face harsh consequences for his actions. I hope that he is successful during the remainder of his time here and beyond, because I think that few people have done more for students over the past few years than he has. But I’m also happy that he has continued the SA’s tradition of entertaining the student body through their irrelevance, irresponsibility and stupidity.
If there’s anything we can learn from this whole ordeal, it’s this: SA meetings are best enjoyed with a tub of extra-butter popcorn and a large coke.
Alexander Ely is a senior at the College.