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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Community to discuss recovered funds

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate will hold a forum in Hotung Café today where students can give their opinions on how to use the money recovered from the embezzlement scandal.

The Senate has compiled a list of 13 possible investments, which it will use as the basis for the 5 p.m. meeting, TCU President Duncan Pickard told the Daily. Students and senators suggested these projects in online messages, during a similar town-hall gathering last month and at Senate meetings.

The Senate plans to follow up on today's meeting by sending students a non-binding survey on the proposals. Senators will then put a final list of options to the student body on Dec. 7 for a binding vote, barring any need for further information or discussion, according to Pickard.

In an e-mail to the student body on Monday, Pickard explained that today's town hall-style meeting will not be a forum for students to propose new ideas for how to use the funds.

"That's not to say if there's some earth-shattering idea that everyone agrees on, we're not going to hear it, but we want to start talking about actual ideas that are on the table," Pickard said.

Although the approximately $700,000 the Senate has at its disposal is replacing money allegedly embezzled primarily from funds intended for student organizations, Pickard said the Senate is open to spending the money on projects rather than just on clubs.

"I've been interpreting this money as something that is a completely unique opportunity for us," he said.

Brian Gilling, a sophomore who is directing the Tufts Mountain Club's Trips Cabin project, said Senate funds would greatly help his group's plans to construct a building next to the Loj, the New Hampshire house that the club operates and that Tufts students often use for weekend getaways.

"We're looking for about $200,000 to build a building next to the Loj that would hopefully fit about 30 more people," Gilling said, adding that the current house is often overcrowded with large groups.

"[The Loj] is a university-owned building that the Mountain Club runs, but we encourage any group to come up with us," he said. "[The addition] really is going to be an asset to the whole community, not just a [select] group of Mountain Clubbers."

Pickard indicated his support for one particular proposal. "One of the ideas that is most attractive to me is to give this money or part of this money as a matching gift challenge for financial aid," Pickard said, pointing to the effects that the economic crisis is having on financial aid at Tufts, as reported in articles in the Daily and The New York Times.

"We can make a really powerful statement about the values of the community in choosing to use this money to help keep current students here who are affected by the financial crisis," he said.

Gilling acknowledged the need to shore up financial aid, but did not agree with the proposal to use the recovered funds to that end. He suggested spending the $500,000 left over after the Loj construction to begin renovating the campus center.

"While financial aid is something the university should be offering, especially in a time of crisis, I don't think it's something that our money should be going for," Gilling said. "I think this money has been earmarked for student life and it should be used as such."

Spending the money to enhance the campus center is something former TCU President Neil DiBiase, the current treasurer for the senior class council and a trustee representative, has advocated.

But Pickard said the Senate supports spreading the wealth, so to speak. "One of the things that we've been saying is that not all of this money has to go to one place," he said. "I think this has been a really great process for us to go through … Just because we're going to choose a plan for this money doesn't mean we're going to give up on all the other ideas that are generated [by] the process."

Former Office of Student Activities employees Jodie Nealley and Ray Rodriguez are charged with embezzling a combined total of nearly $1 million from the university. The administration in September fronted the Senate over $900,000, and the body retains $689,775.75, which it is deciding how to spend. Until recently, the Senate thought it would have $714,291.72 to allocate as it pleased, but senators discovered last month that they owed more money to the yearbook than they had originally thought.

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