Top Golf outings, $1.6k board dinners and $10k merchandise: A breakdown of VSG’s expenditures since August 2020

VSG leaders aim to lower the amount of the organization’s budget spent on internal costs, which took up 32% of the total budget over the past three years.
VSG President Samuel Sliman and Vice President Kendelle Grubbs smile as they hear the 2023 VSG election results, as photographed on March 29, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)
VSG President Samuel Sliman and Vice President Kendelle Grubbs smile as they hear the 2023 VSG election results, as photographed on March 29, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)
Narenkumar Thirmiya

UPDATED: This article was updated on Sept. 12, 2023, at 2:30 p.m. CDT to include a comment from VSG advisors.  

In an Aug. 28 email to the student body, Vanderbilt Student Government released an expenditures report going back to Aug. 7, 2020, alongside drafts of a new VSG constitution and statutes. Of the $257,427.70 VSG has spent over the past three years, 32% has gone toward internal spending, while 58% has gone toward external spending and 10% toward miscellaneous charges.

Internal costs include expenses such as travel fees, executive board dinners (the president, vice president, chief of staff and speaker of the senate), retreat costs, merchandise and catering for meetings, while external costs include student organization co-sponsorships, donations, elections, speaker events, Lyft codes for students and public events. The miscellaneous charges include 155 unmarked charges and 74 unsortable charges due to a lack of detail in their description.

“The biggest thing was just the amount of unmarked charges. Part of why we decided to make the treasurer an elected position is because we want to center them more in responsibility for this and have them be accountable to the students,” VSG President Sam Sliman, a senior, said. “Talking to past treasurers, they have felt a little bit disconnected from this process.”


Detailed expenditures breakdown

On the internal side of things, VSG’s third largest transaction overall and largest internal expense was $10,000 spent on hoodies and bucket hats for organization members in 2021-22. 

In addition, over $6,000 was spent on internal retreats — including passes and transportation to Go USA Fun Park, and over $3,000 was spent on a VSG Top Golf outing. At the executive level, $8,308.27 was spent, with the two biggest purchases being $1,418.50 for windbreakers and plaques and $1,611.44 for an advisor and executive board dinner at Sunda.

“My favorite part of the expenditures list was the $1.6k dinner at Sunda,” senior Aimee Salakhov said. “In a single dinner, they spent over half of what my a cappella group was allocated by the Student Organization Fund.”

In a collective comment sent to The Hustler on Sept. 12, the VSG advisors — Senior Director for Student Engagement and Leadership Clayton Arrington; Associate Dean for Student Engagement and Leadership Traci Ray; Direct of Student Organizations, Leadership and Service DeAnte' Smith; and Assistant Director for Student Organizations, Leadership and Service Adrienne Watson — declined to comment on the Sunda dinner. 

“We consistently advocate for the organization to spend the bulk of its budget on programs that will positively impact the student body and the student experience at Vanderbilt. We make every effort to advise the executive board regarding particular purchases based on the potential impact on students," the advisors' message reads. "Ultimately, VSG is responsible for making and administering its budget." 

For external costs, VSG’s largest expense was $15,000 toward the Graduate and Professional School Application Assistance Fund. The second largest was $10,435 toward the Experience Vanderbilt fund. Student organization co-sponsorships made up the majority of external expenses, while donations made up the least.

Past administrations divided on spending 

Amisha Mittal (‘23), 2022-23 VSG president, declined to comment on the Sunda executive board dinner. Hannah Bruns (‘22), 2021-22 VSG president, did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment on the budget during her administration.

In response to the other expenses during the 2022-23 academic year, Mittal stated that, after COVID-19, she hoped to rebuild both VSG’s internal sense of community and Vanderbilt's campus community as a whole with the help of the budget. 

“I emphasized spending toward the larger campus community through co-sponsorships — which we exceeded $20k each semester — and school-wide initiatives like the graduate school equity fund and activism fund,” Mittal said.

Chief of Staff and 2022-23 Vice President Ari Sasson, a senior, expressed disapproval with how the 2022-23 VSG budget was spent. 

“There absolutely was too much money being allocated internally,” Sasson said. 

Spending increased over the course of the three years, with the 2020-21 administration spending the least and the 2022-23 spending the most. Veer Shah (‘21), 2020-21 VSG president, stated that COVID-19 affected his administration's use of funds.

“My administration was during the heart of the pandemic, so I don't believe we had any exorbitant expenses, especially in regards to travel, large internal events, or miscellaneous exec-only spending,” Shah said.

Budget sources and processes

VSG’s Constitution requires budget proposals, approved budgets and semesterly budget reports to be posted to AnchorLink. The last report posted on AnchorLink is from the fiscal year 2020-21, and the 2021-22 budget and 2022-23 budget were shared with The Hustler this summer. However, these budget reports, unlike the recent release, do not contain specific line item expenses, but rather general categories of expenditures.

VSG’s budget is mostly derived from the student body’s housing fees and an annual allocation from the Student Organizations, Leadership and Service office. According to OHARE, $6 of every student’s annual housing fee goes towards VSG. Grubbs told The Hustler that any member of VSG can make a purchase if they receive approval from the executive board member who oversees their position and the VSG advisors.

“I think it is kind of just shocking to realize that, last year, VSG had $200,000,” Grubbs said. “When we talked to other student governments who went to an SEC Exchange, which is a conference for all student governments in the SEC, they were kind of surprised at that amount of money, especially since it’s not our responsibility to divvy out our money to student orgs like how a lot of other student governments do.”

Goals for this year

Sliman and VSG Vice President Kendelle Grubbs, a senior, ran on a platform aimed at lowering internal VSG spending. Sliman stated that going forward, this report will be released at the end of every school year, and the expenditure descriptions will be required to be more detailed. 

“Students deserve to know what the money has been spent on,” Sasson said.

Sliman and Grubbs aim to reduce merchandise costs, food expenses and social event expenses this year at the executive board, cabinet and committee chair levels. 

“The vast majority of VSG’s biggest transactions benefit the members of VSG themselves,” senior Nisala Kalupahana said. “Some of the Lyft code purchases, which only give us a small ride discount, are further down the list. At my internship this summer, they gave us free rides if we were in need, so there’s clearly a way to make this happen.”

Grubbs stated that, for the 2023-24 year, each committee will be allotted $200 to be used for team bonding and social purposes. She added that VSG will continue to host its regular retreat this year to train its members all at once, but costs will be kept lower than in past years. She said the specific budget is currently being drafted. 

Sliman added that VSG hopes to expand its co-sponsorship program, which had previously been allocated over $65,000. This program provides additional funds by application to student organizations that are holding school-wide events.

“We’re just in such a supportive role,” Sliman said. “There are a lot of things that we can do well by just providing support for other students to do it. There are a lot of events that, theoretically, we could host, but there’s already an organization out there that specializes in hosting that type of event; if we could support them financially and maybe with some volunteers, they would be able to run that event super effectively.”

According to Sasson and Sliman, VSG’s official budget for the 2023-24 school year will be released later this fall after the Senate confirms it. The budget is drafted by Sliman, Grubbs, Sasson, Speaker of the Senate Marco Navarro Stanic, a junior, and Treasurer Eliza Brennan, a sophomore, after speaking to their respective branches about their monetary needs. A budget proposal, final approved budget and expenditures should also be posted to AnchorLink when available. 

“All in all, I’m really glad that the new VSG administration has released this budget,” Kalupahana said. “I’m hopeful that these releases will continue, and that the accountability that follows leads to changes in spending that prioritizes student needs.”

Editor’s note: The spreadsheet provided by Sliman and Grubbs was broken down by hand into internal spending, external spending and miscellaneous charges (unclear labeling). Duplicated charges were removed from the total during analysis, and purchases that were later refunded were not included in the totals.

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About the Contributors
Rhea Patney
Rhea Patney, Managing Editor
Rhea Patney (‘26) is majoring in medicine, health and society and communication of science and technology on the pre-med track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from St. Louis and previously served as Deputy Data Director. When not writing for The Hustler, Rhea loves reading, starting new TV shows and struggling to finish them, playing sports and watching sunsets with her friends. She can be reached at [email protected].
Narenkumar Thirmiya
Narenkumar Thirmiya, Staff Photographer
Narenkumar Thirmiya ('24) is from Orlando, Fla., and is majoring in neuroscience and medicine, health, and society in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, he is streaming TV, playing the piano or guitar or exploring nature photography. You can reach him at [email protected].
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Robert
9 months ago

The expenditures are absolutely ridiculous. Nothing can change the past, but VSG needs to have their budget allocation dramatically reduced and perhaps the difference can be reallocated to SOLS and given to deserving orgs. I know so many who struggle to accomplish meaningful events during the year for the whole community to enjoy; meanwhile, VSG spends literally tens of thousands of dollars on merchandise for their members.

G
Grumpy Alum
9 months ago

Blatant corruption! And to the prior VSG members, who refused to comment: shame!

J
Jack P
9 months ago

What a scam organization- run for the benefit of the executive leadership – wasting money on extravagances. It looks like Ms. Mittla, in particular, used the position to pad her resume and have expensive dinners rather than do any good. I wonder who the advisor was who participated in the dinner at Sunda?