Student Council has completed a three-month-long review of Social Board’s finances and operations following reports of alleged misspending and misconduct, concluding that there was only “minimal” misuse of funds, which did not constitute “malicious activity,” according to Campus Senate co-Chair Delaney Gallagher ’23. However, there was sufficient evidence to indicate a lack of fiscal oversight and familiarity with Council policy — warranting new policies that will be imposed on Social Board beginning in the 2023-24 academic year. The findings and subsequent operational changes were announced in Sunday’s Student Council meeting.
Social Board, known for organizing campus-wide events including Summer Sendoff and Spring Fest, is Kenyon’s student-run programming board. After transitioning from a student organization to a departmental organization in 2020, Social Board began working more closely with the Office of Student Engagement (OSE), which has provided the Board with both advisory and logistical support. Unlike student organizations, which receive money from funding requests made to the Business and Finance Committee (BFC), Social Board receives a set amount of approximately 30% of the Student Activity Fee (to which students contribute $150 every semester). According to Gallagher, Social Board also receives most of the Student Leadership Fund, a small fund for club events.
Early in the 2022-23 school year, the Student Council Executive Committee received anonymous reports alleging operational malpractice within Social Board, including illicit and haphazard spending, unjust rejections of students seeking membership within the group and unsanctioned alcohol use at Board events. In response, the Student Council Executive Committee initiated a comprehensive review of Social Board, its finances and its operations, conducted by Gallagher and Vice President for Business and Finance Melissa Nixon ’23.
Gallagher said that the review sought not only to verify the various complaints, but also to assess the efficacy of Social Board’s operations after becoming a departmental organization. In turn, she acknowledged that such a review was going to happen eventually. “There was always going to be a check-in; the complaints just expedited that process,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian.
As part of the review, Gallagher and Nixon analyzed Social Board’s finances spanning the last year and a half, met with its executive members and talked to its past and present advisors. After concluding the review, Gallagher summarized her and Nixon’s findings in a succinct statement to Student Council on Sunday: “There was no malicious activity.”
The financial assessment revealed some misspending which, according to Gallagher, was minimal. “There [were] some oversight issues, there were ignorance-of-policy issues [and] some misspending that was corrected,” she said at the Student Council meeting. In a follow-up email to the Collegian, Gallagher said that the misspending referred to money from the Student Leadership Fund that was used to incentivize membership retention — a violation of a current Student Council bylaw that bars using funds for incentives. When asked, Gallagher confirmed that the incentives included fuzzy socks and quarter-zip sweatshirts for Social Board members — all of which were paid for with Student Leadership Fund money. However, she did not say who corrected the misspending or how it was done.
Addressing the allegations of alcohol at certain Social Board events, Gallagher clarified that the alcohol infractions in question were not related to Social Board or its members. “All individuals responsible were not directly in Social Board and were sent to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities,” she said. Gallagher and Nixon also found no evidence that Social Board was improperly excluding some students from joining and asserted that the group’s membership selection process was justified given the size of the organization.
Although Gallagher and Nixon found no evidence of malicious activity, they felt it prudent to offer a series of recommendations aimed at increasing Social Board members’ knowledge of Student Council’s funding bylaws, while also improving the transparency and management of the Board’s finances. Student Council approved these suggested policy changes at this week’s meeting. As a result, at the start of every semester, Social Board must share their budget outlines with Student Council; at the end of every semester, the BFC will then compare Social Board’s spending to their original proposed budget. “That way, they can receive feedback as they go through the process, and we can anticipate their funding,” Nixon said. “This will give more transparency. Right now, there is not a way for everyone else to see where that money is really going.”
Further, Social Board will need to remove all clauses in its constitution that involve retention policies or incentives and must present any new constitutional alterations to the Student Life Committee before they are officially adopted. Lastly, each incoming Social Board Executive Board member must score a 95% or higher on a quiz designed to assess their familiarity with Student Council’s funding bylaws, which will be administered by the vice president of business and finance.
President of Social Board Lilly Richart ’23 did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.