Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Editorial: Release receipts

Our View:

President Woodard should release receipts from his extravagant summer dinner at the Sequoia restaurant in the interest of transparency.

Last year, few were more enthusiastic than this page about Omar Woodard’s candidacy for Student Association President. After years of scandal, Woodard seemed poised to change the tone of the SA and return it to relevancy in the lives of students. While in many aspects Woodard has succeeded, a new situation threatens to jeopardize this effort – and the president’s credibility.

Over the summer, Woodard used students’ money to treat his closest advisors to a $414 dinner at the Sequoia restaurant on the Georgetown waterfront – nearly enough to start three new student organizations. To compound matters, Woodard has refused to make public a detailed account of his expenditures, including an uncensored copy of the receipt from the meal. Such actions are unacceptable for a body funded by and accountable to students.

During the execution of official business, there will inevitably be times when the SA needs to purchase food using student funds. While reserving this right, student leaders should not abuse it. An occasional Domino’s purchase is justifiable; a $414 dinner at one of D.C.’s most lavish restaurants is not. Such actions merely fuel widespread student apathy and aversion to the SA. Instead, the student government should create a limited fund that members of the executive and the Senate can draw from for such necessary occasions. Such an arrangement would simultaneously fill a need for the SA, while permitting a check on reckless spending.

It is imperative student leaders recognize every dollar they spend is a dollar taken from students. This is a tremendous responsibility. While the SA executive deserves discretionary funds, members of the SA should simultaneously recognize that every penny not essential to official function should in some way be given back to students.

Perhaps more troubling than the expense itself is that Woodard refuses to provide the Senate or students with an uncensored copy of the expenditure approval form for the meal. Attempting to justify this, Woodard – referring to interested students as “any Joe Schmoe” – claims sensitive information on such receipts trumps the public right to know. This is unacceptable; any student should be permitted to see in full detail how the SA uses his or her money. Furthermore, student government should not operate in matters necessitating they be kept hidden from the very students it serves. Operating in such secrecy naturally leads to questions of impropriety. In the interest of not paralyzing the SA in yet another potential scandal, Woodard should fully disclose all information and records on SA expenditures.

The Senate should not escape all blame in this matter. While it is the Senate’s role to provide a check on the SA executive, there is a widespread perception that certain senators pursue investigation of such events for their own political gain. It is important for the Senate to ensure Woodard is using his appropriated funds properly, but it is more important the Senate not do so at the expense of conducting business that ultimately improves the quality of student life.

Woodard should not be entirely admonished for what probably amounts to one bad decision. He must, however, recognize that operating with student funds requires operating with full transparency. To ensure that this matter does not continue to monopolize time the SA should be using to help students, Woodard must fulfill his constitutional obligations and make information about his dinner available to the student body.

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