The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

VSG releases fall 2023 expenditure report, launches new petition website

The first of VSG’s now semesterly expenditure reports revealed lowered internal spending compared to prior administrations.
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Josh Rehders
The entrance to the Kirkland Esplanade, as photographed on Feb. 3, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

In a Jan. 8 email to students, VSG President Sam Sliman and VSG Vice President Kendelle Grubbs, both seniors, shared fall 2023 expenditure records, a senate-approved 2023-24 budget and a petition hub website. Sliman and Grubbs ran their campaign on a promise to publicize the VSG budget if elected. 

After publicizing past expenditure records on Aug. 28 when they entered office, Sliman and Grubbs committed to publishing future expenditures regularly out of concern about the volume of internal spending by past administrations. According to VSG statutes, the organization’s proposed and final budgets are required to be published to Anchor Link within 24 hours of being approved. 

Expenditures and budget

Sophomore and current VSG Treasurer Eliza Brennan explained that she plans to continue to release expenditure reports at the end of each semester. 

“Going forward, I would like to see it in the new constitution that there is some kind of statute requiring this to be released every semester in a clear way,” Brennan said. 

Brennan added that she hopes VSG will continue to make “accountability” a “first priority,” particularly when it comes to expenditures and the organization’s budget. 

Sliman noted that the expenditure release was a “great sign” and hopes the mid-year check-in becomes a “long-standing precedent.”

“They were a lot better documented than they have been previously, and our expenses were very much in line with what I was hoping for this year,” Sliman said. 

In the fall 2023 semester, the majority of VSG spending was for external activities — which include donations, services, external-facing events and co-sponsorships for other student organizations. Internal spending was the smallest spending category at $2,595.72 and includes purchases made exclusively for travel, VSG members or the executive board. Roughly $5,000 of rollover spending — charges that were made by the previous administration and not processed until fall 2023 — was included as well. 

 

Of the internal budget, most of the spending went to travel — used for conferences where officers are sent to represent VSG. Only $59.10 was spent on bonding activities for VSG executive board members or committees, and another $1,500 was spent on VSG’s annual retreat. Of the external budget, the largest spending categories were co-sponsorships for other student organizations and services, such as VSG’s program to shuttle students to the airport for Thanksgiving Break. 

In the fall 2023 semester, 18 student organizations received co-sponsorship from VSG for events they were conducting, amounting to $6,360.19. 

On average, of VSG spending in prior semesters — from fall 2020 to spring 2023 — 58% of expenditures were external, and 32.1% were internal. Almost 10% of charges were unlabeled or mislabeled, meaning they could not be categorized. In contrast, external spending rose to 73.1% of expenditures in the fall 2023 semester, while internal spending fell to 9.2%. The 17.6% of expenditures labeled as miscellaneous for fall 2023 were spillover charges from previous administrations. Overall, a smaller portion of the budget was spent internally compared to recent prior semesters. 

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Sliman previously stated his administration’s intention to make the role of VSG treasurer an elected position in future iterations of constitutional changes to the organization to increase accountability and responsibility. Brennan, who is also a member of VSG’s Constitution Committee, was appointed to the treasurer position through an application process. In the future, she too hopes for the treasurer position to be elected and supplemented by a treasury committee of two to three members. 

“I think it is a positive thing to have this role be elected,” Brennan said. “There’s a bit more accountability that way.”

Brennan also hopes that an expanded treasury committee would allow for more capacity to label expenditures meticulously and release semesterly reports. 

In addition to releasing expenditure reports from the prior semester, VSG also made public their senate-approved 2023-24 budget. The 2022-23 budget was never made public by the Mittal/Sasson administration. 

According to Brennan, there is a misconception among students that VSG has a $200,000 annual budget. VSG’s annual budget is derived from the student body’s housing fees and an allocation from the Office of Student Organizations, Leadership and Service. That annual allocation totals $89,000 each year. In addition, incoming administrations receive “rollover funding,” or unspent allocations from previous years. At the outset of the fall 2023 semester, that rollover amounted to $75,400, creating a total budget of $164,400. 

In the 2023-24 budget, the largest allocations were all for external spending: senate and committee initiatives, co-sponsorships, the Adrien Bineza GAP Fund, contingency funding and transportation or Lyft codes. The smallest expenditure categories were administrative expenses, VSG turnover and other programming internal to VSG.

In the fall 2023 semester, $28,072.80 out of the total budget has been spent. Expenditures for the spring 2024 semester have not yet been released, but one expense includes a new program in which VSG will fund the costs of graduation regalia for some graduating seniors. 

When Sliman and Grubbs released the past expenditure records, former chief of staff Ari Sasson agreed that external spending should be prioritized. Sasson resigned on Jan. 14. 

“I knew I was neglecting to give the role an amount of my attention commensurate to the job and wanted to free the role for someone else,” Sasson said. “I also didn’t see it worth holding on to the title if I knew I was holding the organization back.”

Clarifying prior record keeping 

Unclear record keeping from past semesters has caused misinterpretation of expenses. For example, The Hustler mistakenly classified a Top Golf outing from April 2023 as an internal VSG expense due to its labeling. However, this event was a joint event put on by Vanderbilt Programming Board and Vanderbilt Student Government for all students. 

“We put this event on in collaboration with VPB, and it was essentially like any of their other events where ticket raffles go to random student winners except that it was entirely funded by VSG,” Campus Services Committee Chair Caleb Boyer said. “The only VSG students who were selected, if any, would've been those who won randomly.”

The event was labeled as “Top Golf for Event,” similar to the labeling for internal expenses since VPB was not listed in the memo. 

“I’m not totally sure why the expense was categorized in this way,” Boyer said. “It may be because the event was 100% funded by VSG, but it wasn’t for VSG students specifically. There’s also a chance that it was due to poor accounting as I’ve heard this has been an issue in the past.”

Brennan said that despite being on cabinet last year, when she stepped into the role of treasurer and looked at the past charges, she did not understand many of them. However, despite the unclear records, she and Sliman felt it was important to release past year’s expenditures because it aligned with Sliman’s platform of transparency. 

“I think that Sam ran very much on a platform of things are changing. In an ideal world, it would have been great for me to be able to go back through everything from last year and outline it like I did this year,” Brennan said. “However, from a standpoint of me and Sam being one person it just wasn’t feasible. I think there was hesitation — especially even I don’t understand everything on the Anchor Link from last year. But unfortunately, I don’t see a great way to go about fixing that.”

Petition website and referendum

The new petition website — “Roadmaps” — is intended to serve as a petition hub for students, according to a Jan. 8 VSG email to students. Sliman explained that the motivation to create the website was sparked by a senate resolution introduced the prior year. Adding that he hopes to implement ongoing constitutional reforms in “accountability and student feedback,” Sliman noted that VSG sought a way to receive and organize that feedback. 

“More so than anything, we want students to have a centralized place to make their concerns heard and know that we are listening,” Sliman said. 

Sliman added that he hopes all ongoing VSG initiatives will be migrated to the Roadmaps website in the future as a way to post updates on their progress, increase visibility and ensure accountability that initiatives are followed through. Any student is able to post a new petition to the website, and it will receive an official response from VSG once the petition reaches at least 200 signatures. According to Sliman, those responses will express whether VSG is starting an initiative in response to the petition and what progress has been made. The threshold may be lowered in the future at VSG’s discretion as they pilot the new website.

“My hope is that whenever students have a concern they want to see addressed or a change that they want to see on campus, they’ll make a petition on Roadmaps,” Sliman said. “We really want it to be a way for students to define the future they want for Vanderbilt.”

Sliman, along with Speaker of VSG Senate Marco Navarro-Stanic, sponsored a VSG Senate resolution to enable the student body to call an amendment to a referendum. Prior to this resolution, a constitutional amendment could only be brought to a referendum vote if proposed by the Senate. 

Citing similar changes at other universities like Harvard and Stanford, the resolution proposes that, to appear on the ballot for a referendum, proposed amendments to the VSG constitution must either be agreed upon by a two-thirds majority of the Senate or petitioned for by at least five percent of the undergraduate student body. This petitioning may be done through either the new petition hub platform Roadmaps or Anchorlink. 

Navarro-Stanic shared that this constitutional amendment has passed, and the student body is now able to petition for amendments to appear on the ballot for referendum. 

“There have been a few constitutional reforms on the ballot since last year that were proposed from within VSG,” Navarro-Stanic said. “But this initiative recently voted on allows any student to propose the changes they want to see within the organization for a vote, regardless of whether they are a member or not.”

Navarro-Stanic added that he thinks “disconnection with the organization” or a “lack of representation of the student body” have been major issues for VSG in the past few years.

“This year’s administration has placed high emphasis on transparency and accountability, and programs like this, the VSG Census, and the Roadmaps petition platform give students different avenues to shape the organization and its initiatives,” Navarro-Stanic said. 

As of publication, six petitions have been listed on Roadmaps. MLC President and junior Zack Maaieh created a petition on Roadmaps to call for an end to the two meal-swipe daily limit at Munchie Mart locations and the petition currently has 95 signatures, the most of any petition on Roadmaps. He explained that he is unsure of its impact on administrative decisions.

“I just did it on a whim,” Maiaeh said. “In my experience, not all administrators are connected to students, so initiatives can go unnoticed a lot of times.” 

Senior Induja Kumar said that the website might be useful as an informational tool for VSG, though they believe its impact on administration depends on whether VSG follows through on creating initiatives based on the petitions. 

“I think it’s super useful to democratically see what students are thinking on campus,” Kumar said. “Without VSG to push these issues and create plans surrounding them, the website won’t fulfill its function.”



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About the Contributors
Aaditi Lele
Aaditi Lele, Editorial Director
Aaditi Lele ('24) is majoring in political science and climate science with a minor in South Asian Language and Culture in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as News Editor. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her crocheting, practicing calligraphy or counting down the days until she can see her dog. She can be reached at [email protected].    
Rhea Patney
Rhea Patney, Deputy Data Director
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. 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].
Josh Rehders
Josh Rehders, Photography Director
Josh Rehders ('24) is from Houston and is studying computer science in the School of Engineering. When he is not shooting for The Hustler, Vanderbilt Athletics or freelancing, he enjoys finding new music and good food. He can be reached at [email protected].
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