Many members of the undergraduate student body received an email sent by the Reese and Reagan Brooks campaign about improper USG spending one hour after the voting window was opened Monday.
The USG presidential and vice-presidential candidates claimed USG spent money for mostly itself and ignored other student organizations. Because the majority of USG funding comes from a portion of the student activities fee, a $37.50 payment that affects every student each semester, the Brooks brothers campaign called for the money to make its way back to the students.
This information was incorrectly reported by USG and then misinterpreted by the Brooks campaign, according to various USG members.
The email said the information was gathered from quarterly budget spreadsheets released by USG on its website. At first glance, the numbers check out: $2,000 went to a “party” labeled under student affairs, $3,750 for complimentary USG t-shirts, $7,250 for a USG trip to Washington, D.C. and $2,750 on a local government lobbying trip.
However, the email doesn’t distinguish between budgeting costs and actual spending costs. Connor Dorony, a third-year in accounting, and the USG chief financial officer in charge of keeping track of USG funds and spending said the prices in the spreadsheet represent the expected costs of these events and not the actual spending costs.
“I was very, very disappointed when I saw that email,” Dorony said. “To just accuse USG of irresponsibly using money like that, I would definitely say is false.”
Dorony said the budget released to the public consists of rough spending estimates, and emphasized the budget does not equate to exact spending, which he said “goes through a multistep process before any dollar is spent.”
He said nearly all USG expenditures fall under its budget. As for the final costs of the examples listed in the email, the trip to D.C. is waiting on final hotel costs, the lobbying trip has not occurred and the T-shirts were on par for their budget, Dorony said.
The Brooks campaign was not entirely at fault, though. There were clerical errors, too, Dorony said.
The spreadsheet that held the information was formatted onto the website incorrectly and switched a cell titled “Buckeye Block Watch Block Party” to solely “party.” In actuality, the party was an event paired with Off-Campus and Commuter Services and the Collegiate Recovery Program to talk about off-campus safety awareness, said Erin Donnelly, USG director of student affairs, the committee in charge of the party.
The $2,000 was spent on promotional advertising and first-aid kits for students to take home for free, said Donnelly, a fifth-year in biomedical engineering.
There also was a mistake in the spreadsheet about the source of funds for T-shirts. USG can receive funding from both the student activities fee and Coca-Cola grants, money donated from the Coca-Cola and Ohio State partnership solely meant for student government.
In this case, the sheet lists the T-shirts will be paid from the student activities fee in the second quarter and from Coca-Cola grants in the third. With the receipt charged to the banks of Coca-Cola, the T-shirts were not paid with the student activities fee.
Another concern raised in the email sent by the Brooks brothers was the amount of USG funds that go directly to supporting other student organizations. The email stated 17 percent of USG spending went to student organizations and said the brothers plan to raise that percentage to 30-50 percent.
This was a different discrepancy in the spreadsheet. Funding for student organizations were labeled in two different ways: “Partnership Funding” and “Student Orgs Funding.” Because of this lack of clear information, Dorony calculated USG actually spent more than 34 percent of its funds on student organizations over the first two quarters.
Nick Davis, the Brooks’ campaign manager and a fourth-year in natural resource management, apologized for the misinformation, but said this problem is another example of the need for USG to be more open about what it is spending, which is one of the campaign’s main policies.
“For the sake of transparency, [USG] should report exactly what that money is being spent on,” Davis said. “Students pay the student activities fee and students should ought to know where exactly that money is going.”
Davis said this type of openness should include a similar spending report like the quarterly budgeting report.
With both the spreadsheet and the Brooks brothers campaign at fault for the misinterpreted information, Dorony hopes to use this as a lesson to educate students about the student organization funding and to create a more accessible USG website.
These changes would include a disclaimer on the budgets and an open-door policy for anyone to reach out to USG to learn more about the specifics.
This is the not the first time the Brooks Brothers have sent out an email alleging significant wrongdoing on the part of USG. Last March, within hours of the announcement that the Andrew Jackson and Sophie Chang campaign had won the election, the Brooks campaign — which came in third out of four campaigns — emailed a press release calling for Jackson and Chang’s disqualification due to an alleged violation of USG campaign bylaws.
No disciplinary action was ever taken regarding the allegation.