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Bush Fund, UA Disgraced by The Thistle

Column by Michael K. Chung
Opinion Editor

The Thistle continues to bewilder me. On the front page of the Nov. 17 issue, the first headline asks "Should the Bush Fund Be a Controversy?" Simply stated, no. The Vannevar Bush '16 Fund should not be a controversy, and The Thistle, which brought the issue into the attention of the MIT community in the first place, only continues to present itself as an example of a shoddy journalistic publication, not only by beating a dead horse, but by continually trying to defame Hans C. Godfrey '93, current Undergraduate Association President, and now dishonoring the Bush Fund.

True, I am writing about it as well, but only because I am annoyed at the manner in which The Thistle brought the Bush Fund to light, the way its reporters continue in attempting to make UA presidents -- present and past -- look bad, hypocritical, and diabolical, and especially its production statement at the top of the front page: "produced by the Alternative News Collective, with no support from the Vannevar Bush Fund."

When I read through the first article discussing the Bush Fund I wondered, too, about the validity of Godfrey's use of the Bush Fund on his Kappa Sigma house bill, and how past UA President Stacy E. McGeever '93 used some of the fund for cab fares, dinners, and the like. However, after discussion with other people, and especially after reading the letter from Oscar Cox to former MIT President James R. Killian '26 establishing the fund (the publication of which, I feel, is one of the few relevant and concrete pieces of information that The Thistle has offered in this continuing saga), I decided that Godfrey can use the money however he so pleases.

For a while, I agreed with Doug Decouto '97, who wrote to The Tech, stating, "Our leaders should be honorable and noble," then going on to say that this is not what we expect from our leaders, that he broke the spirit of the fund by sending the money on himself. However, if the establishment of the fund was made so that the student body leader "discharge his duties more effectively" (taken from the Cox letter), then Godfrey did not, in fact, violate the spirit of the fund. It has been pointed out in prior articles of The Tech and The Thistle that Godfrey is self-supporting, and that the Bush Fund was intended also so that the leader could focus more attention on the office position without having to find a part-time job. Therefore, in my view, Godfrey can use the money for his personal expenses as well as the expenses associated with the UA.

Regarding the expenses associated and itemized by The Thistle, first of all, isn't the printing of this in violation of the UA Finboard rules stating that such figures are not to be disclosed to anyone (and a large reason for the recent resignation of the UA Finboard leaders David J. Kessler '94, Per E. Juvkam-Wold '94, and James T. Kirtley Jr. G)? Had The Thistle been more sensitive to the issue, it would not have printed this.

After reading related articles and looking at the figures (come on, I had to look), I believe that the money used by McGeever, Bansal, and Godfrey was used for the business of the UA. Whether it was spent on pizza parties, study breaks, and social events for the students involved with the UA, or on official UA business in the form of dinners and transportation for those involved, the use of the money was legitimate. Why should there be such a problem with any of this if it is related to the business of the UA office? If the money is funneled toward a target with which the UA President has no business, then I can see where it becomes problematic. However, I fail to find such a case.

Another issue that bothers me is the release of the Bush Fund information. It was insensitive for Kessler et al., to release the information to the campus publications. Their reason for releasing it was rather pathetic; in The Tech article "UAP Fund Stirs Controversy" [Nov. 9], it is said, "Kessler and other Finboard officers decided together how to release the account information. He said that 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." This is a pretty sorry issue for UA presidential election debate. Instead of focusing on more relevant campus issues, why don't we focus on how the UA president's fund is spent. Please.

It is a true dishonor to the Bush Fund to be brought to public attention the way that it has. Cox wrote that the fund "should serve as an incentive for the entire student body to interest itself in government and human relationships and to develop the qualities necessary for that purpose." Who should have brought the Bush Fund into the public eye? I don't know, but I feel that it should have been brought to the attention of the student body soon after this letter was dated (Nov. 27, 1950) and not in the manner in which it was this past month.

Also, the fact that there was a lack of discussion between past UAPs and others in the office, as well as prospective candidates is a nuisance. Prospective candidates were reportedly not informed of the fund, partly for fear that people would run solely to get their hands on the money. Any candidate that ran solely for the money would probably be weeded out throughout the election process. If such a person was surreptitious in keeping the access to the Bush Fund as his sole motivation for being elected, and did a poor job at the position, then his colleagues in the office would most likely be offended by his or her attitude and see that someone else filled the position, assuming public knowledge of the fund.

On that note, there may well have been qualified candidates who chose not to run because they were not aware of the "salary" of the post, and decided to pursue activities which offered financial compensation.

Finally, I am disgusted at The Thistle for printing "produced by the Alternative News Collective, with no support from the Vannevar Bush Fund." While this may have been done in jest, it shows absolutely no respect for the fund itself, the UA, or The Thistle. The Bush Fund was established for the sole use of the UA president. Period. If the UAP wants to split it up, that is his or her choice. If The Thistle is disappointed with its financial status, wants more money, and cannot get funding from Finboard, The Thistle should be able to work through its advertising department and such. Until then, The Thistle and its reporters should display more sensitivity to all sides involved.