UAP Fund Stirs ControversyBy Kevin S. Subramanya
The Undergraduate Association president's control of a $4,000 a year discretionary fund, established by the estate of Vannevar Bush '16, has become the focus of attention recently after The Thistle reported use of the little-known fund by UA presidents in the last three years.
The details of recent transaction were distributed to several campus publications by UA Finance Board chairman David J. Kessler '94.
The fund was created in 1950 to defray "the extraordinary expenses of the student body president incident to that office, or, if self-supporting to cover personal expenses," according to Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs.
Current UA president Hans C. Godfrey '93 used $1,600 from this fund to pay for his Kappa Sigma house bill this term. The Thistle described the action as a violation of the spirit of the Bush Fund.
But Smith, who has nominal oversight over the fund, disagrees. "I have no problem with how the money was spent," he said.
Godfrey was concerned about that public release of the account transactions was an invasion of privacy. "As UAP it is my job to be here to serve individual students and student groups alike. However, I needed to use that money, which was Bush's intent, to be able to stay here at MIT, judging that I'm paying my own way through school," he said.
Former UA President Stacy E. McGeever '93 spent several hundred dollars on expenses recorded as food, taxis, and similar expenses.
"The implication of The Thistle article was that the money was used solely for personal gain," McGeever said. "In no case did we use these funds to purchase anything whose cost was not incurred directly by the duties of our office."
"The majority of the fund was used to hire student workers to help Finboard, because the Finboard was under staffed," said former UA Vice president J. Paul Kirby '92, who served with McGeever.
"About $500 was used for the freshmen [General Institute Requirement study] and several hundred dollars for the Public Service Center. The food that was purchased fed students who came to meetings, open houses, and who dropped by the office," he said.
Shally Bansal '93 and Kessler served as UA president and vice president last year. Bansal used the fund less than Godfrey or McGeever, according to the transaction records.
However, most of the individual transactions were described only as "discretionary fund."
"I do not know exactly how Shally spent [the money]," Kessler said. "We agreed that the money should be spent on the general welfare of the students. That was the choice we made and not a restriction that was made on the Bush Fund."
Kessler and other Finboard officers decided together to release the account information. He said the group's primary motivation was to make Godfrey's use of the fund public and make the fund an issue in future UA presidential elections.
"I thought that $1,600 on a term bill was sort of an interesting expenditure. My motivation was that it would be a topic in the next year's election," Kessler said.
"I did it only because it's a question of accountability. Students have a right to know what entails student government," Kessler continued.
However, UA Treasurer Raajnish A. Chitaley '95 felt Kessler's actions were inappropriate and filed a grievance with the UA Judicial Review Board against Kessler and fellow Finboard member Douglas M. Wyatt '96, who co-authored The Thistle article.
"I think that David [Kessler] willfully abused his power, that is, the power to have access to the financial data base. After all, he has dealt with the Bush fund account before, and he knew it was private information," Chitaley said.
Kessler said he decided that distributing the information was legal after discussions with Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Andrew M. Eisenmann '75 and Director of Insurance and Legal Affairs Thomas R. Henneberry.