Journalists, as most of us know, are often faced with writing stories that rattle the cages of bureaucrats and political officials, among others. Some student leaders at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., learned that lesson the hard way last month when Tammy Oseid, then a reporter for the campus newspaper, uncovered allegations of financial mismanagement in the university student senate.
When Oseid, a senior at the women-only College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, assumes leadership of the Record in the fall — the first female in the paper’s history to do so — she may have to fight off a student senate subcommittee recommendation that would zero-fund all St. John’s student groups with women in leadership positions. That proposal targets the Record, first and foremost, which receives the bulk of its budget from student fee allocations. Students at St. Benedict and St. John’s are able to participate in student organizations at either college.
And we thought our own fees committee was tough. Oseid’s original story detailed some questionable expenditures by the senate, totalling more than $46,000, during the 1994-95 school year. St. John’s students, who pay $88 per semester in activity fees, apparently footed the bill for a student regent’s suit, a rave party and the rental of a Nissan Pathfinder that was reportedly used mostly for transporting beer kegs.
These and other unjustifiable expenditures were eventually paid back by the offending students, and the student senate instituted guidelines that will hopefully prevent similar abuses of power in the future. But instead of simply admitting their mistakes and getting on with the business of governing, student leaders have decided to take the low road and get even.
Granted, St. John’s status as a private institution leaves them beholden to different standards and rules of operation, but constitutional and anti-discrimination laws should still apply. Not only is the student senate retaliating against the Record’s arguable right to free speech, it is doing so for obviously sexist reasons. That this proposal gained support in the first place is bad enough; its continued consideration is appalling.
St. John’s administrators are also, to an extent, to blame for this mess. The policy that left $140,000 in activity fees solely in the hands of students needs revision. We don’t propose that students be removed from the fees distribution process altogether, but a closely supervised period of parole, as well as full public disclosure of all future allocations would be a reasonable start.
It’s unfortunate to see that constitutional and personal freedoms are still so freely tread upon, especially at a respected academic institution like St. John’s. As a 19-year-old senior, Oseid is apparently stepping into a position where others believe she doesn’t belong. Her promise to fight back and file a lawsuit if necessary shows us she’s ready to prove them wrong. We applaud Oseid’s groundbreaking appointment as editor in chief of the Record and support her opposition of ignorance and prejudice on the St. John’s campus.