Response From Eliza Diop

Eliza Diop

I am submitting this statement in regards to the recent issue on Student Senate, about senators’ compensation. I recognize that this issue is very important and that all students should be aware of the systemic mistakes that have occured on Senate, as we are a body elect- ed to represent and serve all of you.These systemic errors have taken place on Senate this se- mester and in past semesters and have unfortunately just come to light now.

First, as a senator, I formally apologize for my part in this situation and for my personal errors as a member of the Student Senate. As the Senate’s Liaison I apologize on behalf of all of us for our failure to catch this issue at the beginning of the semester and for our delay in officially addressing it to the student body. As is slightly ad- dressed in the other letter about this issue, I was under the incorrect understanding that the work I have done as liaison to the Student Senate this semester was billable on my time card. This work includes the working groups formed to write the letter of proposals for institutional change; meetings with administrators in regards to realizing these changes; planning and strategizing for the annual solidarity event next year; and finally, supporting my community through this semester as we have all been affected by the bias attacks. I thought that this work could be billed for as it related to and was representative of my platform as a senator, and because Senate, and the student body, was aware and supportive of the work I was doing. I am doing my job on Senate as liaison by representing and advocating for a multitude of student groups. As liaison, according to its definition in our Senate bylaws and according to the dictionary, the work I have done has liaised between students and administration. I billed for the hours that I saw as directly related to my position on Senate; nothing more and nothing less.

I began as a senator last year, and served as a secretary, and at that time, I billed meetings with student organizations, and involvement with student groups among other meetings with administrators, Senate working groups, etc. That is because I had the understanding, (according to the clause in our bylaws referring to ‘Senate business’ and the explanation I received from other senators at that time) that those things were acceptable and could be charged as Senate work. For that year, I was never corrected about the things I billed by our Treasurer, whose responsibility it is to review time cards and ensure that all things charged are acceptable, and thus remained under the impression that all of it was suitable. This year on Senate, I serve as liaison, which is a position that entails more time and involvement, and in light of the recent racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic events on campus I have been a lot more involved in campus organizing and student and administrative support. Being that the position of liaison is quite involved and does entail more direct work with students and administrators, I understood my compensation this year in the same way that I understood it last year and so I continued to bill for work with student organizations, and the meetings with students and administrators that occurred. Had I been addressed by the Treasurer of Student Senate and made to understand that these meetings, etc., were not billable, I would have swiftly stopped recording them. The Treasurer had not approached me about errors in my charges until Sunday, April 21, after four pay periods had already passed this semester. As a result, the issue has become more complex because time cards have already been submitted with technically ‘mischarged’ hours. Since then, Senate has been havingextensiveconversations around the issue, and we are all working very hard to come to consensus on the best way to address the issue within our system.

I am writing today not to further detail or outline the events, but to better explain and clarify the issue at hand. I was uncomfortable with the letter that Senate voted to send to the Review because I felt that the tone in the letter defamed my character, in that it suggests I have lied and intentionally misrepresented my hours. I truly hope that students will not see my actions or me in this way, as I would never do such a thing. If I have not shown it, I am very dedicated to this student body and to the betterment of the institution and of its practices and engagements with students. I have no will or desire to devalue all of the work by essentially framing myself in a situation where I can be accused of lying and misusing the trust of students. As Liaison, the work I do has greatly increased from last year, so I was under the impression that all of it was billable as it is explicitly work that was done to liaise between the student body and the administration. This work reflects the concerns of my constituents and the concerns that I came onto Senate to advocate for: thus, I truly saw this work as ‘Senate business’ and as billable hours.This situation has risen out of systemic lack of clarity in our bylaws and a failure to follow the procedures of our by-laws by our Treasurers, current and past, as well as a grave misunderstanding of the rules of compensation by myself, and other Senators current and past. With this letter, I hope to remove the focus of this issue from around my name, which should not be the center of the issue, and reposition it as a systemic failure that Senate has committed by many on the body now and in the past. The former issue is where I believe students and Senators alike should focus their attention in drafting solutions to address these failures and institutionalizing ways to ensure that they do not happen again.

I feel that the letter submitted focuses more on the details of one senator’s incorrect charges reflective of their misunderstanding of the bylaws, and does not include details of other senators and their incorrect charges and misunderstanding of the bylaws. While I do not think that the latter option is necessary either, I do believe that if one senator is audited and his or her incorrect charges are published, then all senators should be audited and their incorrect charges should be published. I think that this situation represents a prime opportunity for the student body to keep senators accountable for the work that they commit themselves to doing. This issue is beyond a single situation of time cards but relates to a larger conversation around chargeable hours for all Senators and how to ensure that senators are being accountable in their work. This issue should be more than a personal attack or examination of my mistakes, but should be acknowledged as a systemic issue, which needed to be addressed on Senate long before now, and has just so happened to come to light at the end of this semester.

In all, I hope that the student body will understand that I did not falsify, misrepresent or inflate my hours with the intention of personal gain or disrespecting Senate’s bylaws, but that it was a genuine misunderstanding of compensable hours that did not begin with me but has existed and manifested on Senate before this moment. We, the Student Senate, are working diligently to rewrite our bylaws to ensure clarity, and to institutionalize a system in which to prevent and address an issue like this should it arise again. As mentioned, we are working to institutionalize changes as quickly as possible so that senators next semester and in semesters to come will be more efficient than we were and will know how to address situations like this in the future in an organized and productive way. Thank you for taking the time to read this and if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

–Eliza Diop
College junior Liasion to the Student Senate