The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Senator refutes accusations, disputes portrayal in article

Upon reading the investigative reporting article in last Monday’s edition of The Daily Campus, I was rather disappointed at its careless journalism, especially since it did not at all represent the information that I gave when interviewed.

Before I had a chance to fully formulate a reply, I was further troubled to discover that Vice President Alex Ehmke’s response article was also full of misinformation, just like the article that he criticized. So, instead of responding to just one inaccurate article, I am now responding to two.

I agree wholeheartedly with Ehmke’s statement “reporting must be done in a responsible way.”

However, his article is hardly written any more responsibly than the one he attacks.

He claims that while the article’s authors, “may have assumed that the information they gleaned from interviews with the student body secretary was accurate, responsible reporters would have realized that this source has no affiliation or direct experience on finance committee and therefore has no direct evidence to support the assertions she made.”

This allegation lacks even rudimentary background investigation.

If the vice president had questioned me, he would have learned that the article largely misrepresented the facts that I gave and wrongfully attributed information volunteered by various anonymous sources to myself.

Notably, the vice president’s assertion that being a student body officer and keeping the Senate records is not an “affiliation” with the Finance Committee provides contradictory evidence against his statements that finance committee is a transparent and straightforward organization. His claim that I know nothing about the committee because I have not directly served as a member indicates that the committee is secretive. Truly transparent organizations do not require “insider knowledge” and experience in order to have a solid understanding of how they operate.

Additionally, he should recall that I was a member of last year’s summer Senate and helped to allocate approximately $25,000 to student organizations under the leadership of Finance Committee Chair Rachel Fox.

During those meetings, I faithfully kept the minutes and participated in the entire allocation process. To the best of my knowledge, the only difference between summer Senate and the Finance Committee’s weekly meetings is that summer Senate’s funding decisions did not require the approval of the entire Senate chamber.

Furthermore, finance committee chair Fox’s statement that “the organizations that receive the most money are the ones that have maintained a good relationship with the committee,” suggests an explanation for why organizations are afraid to ask questions and complain if they feel that they have been unjustly treated.

After all, it is better to receive little or no funding and remain on the committee’s good side than to protest and perhaps incur penalties in the future.

Ehmke refutes the claim that semester budget requests are reviewed in the order that they are received.

However, this statement came from Chair Fox during her presentation of the Spring 2012 budget proposals before Senate.

According to the official Student Senate minutes from Nov. 8, 2011, “Organizations were funded for the spring in the order that their requests were submitted.”

Interestingly, Student Senate itself was denied funding during the original round of allocations for the Spring 2012 semester while organizations lower in the alphabet received funding. This occurred because Vice President Ehmke failed to submit a budget request by the deadline. Senate eventually received its funding during the round of residual funding for organizations that had submitted funding complaints.

Regarding his statement that the Political Science Symposium “has not put on a heavily attended event in my four years at SMU,” I find it noteworthy that the vice-president asked the PSS to donate its remaining funds to help sponsor the televised Dallas Mayoral Debate held on the SMU campus last spring, which he was heavily involved in organizing. This event was very well attended.

The vice president seems to believe that I gave the impression that, “finance committee is a wholly secretive organization, responsible to no one, that doles out funds on a whim and fancy.” Given the article’s construction and his failure to seek clarification, that is an understandable conclusion.

However, my goal in communicating with the authors was to help them out with their assignment by giving them an overview of Senate and pointing them in the right direction for specific answers for their questions.

In reality, I outlined the current financing process for student organizations, told them where to find Senate documents online and in the Public Information Files, and gave them contact information for numerous individuals who were more intimately connected with the Finance Committee than myself.

I also requested that they verify anything I said with other sources in order to have as unbiased an article as possible.

When asked for leads for their story, I suggested that they research the controversy over last year’s funding of the Muslim Students Association Fast-a-thon, the historical use of the presidential discretionary funding, the transition from legislative “bills” to weekly Finance Committee recommendations, and the more recent switch to the semester budget process.

My mention of the Political Science Symposium was only to explain my personal experience as a member of a club that had been denied funding through not only the semester budgets but also the appeals process. I did not speak on behalf of either the PSS or Student Senate when interviewed.

When the PSS was finally funded for some of its upcoming fall events, I followed-up with the authors to let them know. I was disappointed that the article made no mention of this.

Regarding the article’s claims about the specific amount of funds that Senate allocates, I referred the authors to the Student Senate website. The article should have stated that they found the information there and drew their own conclusions.

To set the record straight, I have no problem with Program Council or its current funding, and I had no part in the article’s conclusion that Program Council is unfairly monopolizing the student organization funding.

Whether or not the authors actually contacted the people I referred them to was beyond my control.

I also did not have control over what they wrote because they would not allow me to see the complete article to check for accuracy.

For Ehmke to state that the entire article is based on the experience of a “single, spurned organization’s representative” is an equally “blind accusation.”

Martha is a sophomore majoring in accounting. 

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