Undergraduate Student Government has been accused of inappropriately using part of its budget by USG members Nat Crowley, a third-year in philosophy and economics, and Roshan Chandrakumar, a third-year in political science. Credit: Owen Conn | Lantern Reporter

The Undergraduate Student Government is dealing with an internal dispute between leadership and members over how it spends its money. 

Nat Crowley, a third-year in philosophy and economics, and Roshan Chandrakumar, a third-year in political science, accused USG of inappropriately using part of its budget on a leadership development retreat and jackets. However, USG leaders said the use of the money is permitted under USG’s rules. 

According to the 2019 USG first-quarter budget, the retreat — which took place from Aug. 23 to Aug. 25 at Hocking Hills — cost $3,715. The apparel, which consisted of jackets for USG senior staff and directors, was budgeted for $2,200, but according to a USG invoice, cost $1,276. 

The two items totaled $5,915, which is 6.7 percent of the 2019 USG first-quarter budget. In comparison, USG allotted $20,000 for student organization funding in the first quarter.

The issue was first raised during Wednesday’s General Assembly meeting after Crowley, deputy director of the Academic Affairs Committee, and Chandrakumar, membership coordinator in internal operations, voiced their concerns during public forum.

“I have spent the past two-and-a-half years dedicating my time and energy in this organization to serving students, and it would be unethical for me to be aware of this clearly irresponsible abuse of power that is occurring and not say something about it,” Crowley said in a statement to the General Assembly. 

Nolan Hanna, a fourth-year in industrial systems engineering and chief financial officer of USG, said the two purchases will make up 1.9 percent of USG’s estimated $305,000 budget for the 2019-20 school year. 

USG’s funding comes from two places. 

First, USG receives 5.85 percent of the roughly $4.6 million student activity fee each year, Julia Dennen, USG vice president and fourth-year in public affairs, and Hanna said. According to the Office of Student Life website, the student activity fee is $40 per student per semester. 

Second, USG receives grants from Coca-Cola. In the first quarter of 2019, USG received $30,916 in Coke grant money, which Dennen said is reserved “for our student government to further invest in leadership development initiatives” and “to supplement any additional funds for our programs.” 

Hanna said each source of money is kept in separate university accounts, and Dennen said funds require several levels of oversight to be spent. 

“All of our budgets are approved by the CFO, the Allocations Committee, General Assembly and Student Life,” Dennen said in a statement. “Requests for funding (from both sources) must also be processed and approved by Student Life; ensuring that our money is distributed and handled in a responsible and ethical manner.”

The Hocking Hills retreat for USG’s 26-member collaborative leadership team was for leadership development, and the clothing USG purchased was funded entirely by Coke grant money, according to the USG budget. 

Despite the use of Coke funds being within the parameters of what USG considers appropriate, Crowley said they could have been used elsewhere. 

“There’s no difference between them spending $6,000 of Coke grant money as opposed to student activity fee money,” Crowley said in an interview. “That’s $6,000 you’re not spending on something else. They could spend it on putting on an event for students.”

Crowley also said USG is “hypocritical” for using Coke grant money on clothing and an internal event when, according to USG funding guidelines, USG will not fund “T-shirts and other event and/or organization-specific apparel” or “internal events for student orgs such as awards banquets, etc.” for other student organizations. 

This story has been updated to accurately reflect the actual cost of items within the allotted budget at 12:36 p.m. 

Clarification: The published USG budget did not accurately reflect final dates and expenditures. The retreat listed in the budget for Aug. 23 to Aug. 25 actually occurred Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, according to a USG official. The jackets for USG senior staff and directors was budgeted for $2,200, but according to a USG invoice, cost $1,276