Pitzer Senate Seeks to Prevent Embezzlement

Pitzer College Student Senate is adding a policy to their constitution stating that all student activities funds must remain in the budget of the student organization and not be used for personal benefit. Student Senate Secretary Shivanu Kavuluru PZ ’19 has also started to perform audits on all Pitzer clubs to ensure they are active and properly using their funds.

This change comes after Pitzer Student Body President Josue Pasillas PZ ’17 noticed that merchandise sales from a former club were never returned to the club’s funds or student activities. Recent allegations claim that the money was directed into a personal Venmo account.

On Jan. 29, Pasillas proposed a bill that would no longer recognize the accused club as an official student organization, would dissolve the club, and "reallocate all funds to the Student Senate budget committee for purposes of school pride and traditions.” The bill was presented to the Senate on Feb. 12 and passed 25-0.

“Hearing that [money] may have gone into a personal Venmo account is kind of frightening,” Kavuluru said.

However, Brian Carlisle, vice president of student affairs at Pitzer, noted that at the time this event occurred, there were no policies or bylaws in the Student Senate constitution prohibiting clubs from profiting off money subsidized by the Student Senate and student activities fees.

Due to the absence of written policies in the Student Senate constitution stating where profited money should be directed, there are no legal ramifications for this action.

“There are people who believe that it’s unethical and unprofessional, but everyone is going to have a different opinion on it,” Carlisle said. “I would argue [directing money into a personal Venmo account] did not violate any policies.”

Pasillas confirmed that there was no policy stating where the money should go, but he said it is “unethical to make money off of student activities funds for personal gain, as that is not the intention of the budget.”

The leader of the accused club could not be reached for comment by press time.

Carlisle believes this event will allow Student Senate to use their voice to provoke change.

“Students have a powerful shared governance voice and now is the opportunity for them to examine and potentially refine the policies and procedures around the use of student activities fees,” Carlisle said.

Pasillas agreed.

This event "is a message to a student senate, saying this is proof that we need a reform of our student budget guidelines and how we allocate funding and how we oversee the funding,” he said. “Currently we have a set of rules that have no teeth and so I’m working with the treasurer right now to rewrite all our budget guidelines.”

Currently, all Pitzer clubs receive some funding through Student Senate. At the end of every academic year, the Senate holds a budget allocation session where clubs present a breakdown of their budget and the Senate decides the amount of money they can give the club.

Though clubs will continue to receive funds, Student Senate will check that all money allocated to clubs is used responsibly.

“One of the main responsibilities that I take to heart is making sure that student activities funds are prioritized through what the student body needs and wants. I wanted our student activities funds to be used efficiently and to the best of the ability to benefit the student body,” Pasillas said.

According to Kavuluru, there have been cases where students created a club, received funding, and then used the money for personal benefit. There are also clubs that become inactive, so the money allocated to them remains stagnant.

“We need to start being a little bit more careful about what we do when we’re giving clubs money because there are always affinity and identity groups who deserve and need more funds,” Kavuluru said.

The revised guidelines will note that all student activities funds must remain in the budget of the student organization and not be used for personal benefit.

However, Carlisle urged students to question whether it is unethical to make money off of the Student Activities Fund for personal gain.

“What if a student was doing it to help make money, to help pay for their tuition or their books or their fees? Does allowing people to profit promote entrepreneurialism? These are issues that are really important to vet through the student governance process,” Carlisle said.