Ocon: UBSA scandal illuminates unacceptable betrayal of student body, funds

Earlier this April, the University of Buffalo’s Student Association Treasurer Sikander Khan and Vice President Meghan McMonagle signed a $300,000 contract for a questionable company to make a mobile app for them.

While UBSA President JoAnna Datz stopped the contract from being acted upon, the fact that the contract got as far as it did shines a light on the reality that the illegitimate practices one often hears about in state and federal government can also find its way into student government.

Apparently there is a long history of corruptive practices in UBSA. For example, Mohammad Viqar Hussain, UBSA president for 2006-2007, once bought an entire fleet of UBSA vehicles from his uncle at a significant markup, receiving a kickback for his trouble.

As it turns out, Hussain and Khan have connections to each other, and it has become clear that the kind of patronage and corruption that has defined prior UBSA administrations was meant to proliferate again under Khan. Khan has failed to fulfill his duties in the face of student backlash and now potentially faces a student-wide impeachment process for breaking not only UBSA’s bylaws, but also policies across the State University of New York system regarding use of student activity fees.

While I commend UB students for calling for Khan’s removal, I wonder what happened to McMonagle – after all, she did sign the contract and, just like Khan, should also be held responsible for breaking UBSA’s bylaws and betraying the trust of the UB student body.

Having experience on Geneseo’s Student Association, I am shocked and appalled to hear that a student government from a fellow SUNY school would be subject to such a scandal. After looking into it, it is clear to me that several members of UBSA do not work for the betterment of the student body but for their own selfish gains – a practice well documented by the UB student body and, apparently, accepted.

I disagree with this acceptance. I believe that serving on SA is a promise to the student body that you will work to make sure its activity fees are being spent responsibly and thoughtfully, and I believe that our SA fulfills this promise each and every year. Khan and McMonagle, however, fail to fulfill the oath they made to the UB student body to act ethically and responsibly and, as such, tarnish the reputation of not only UB’s Student Association, but student governments across the SUNY system.

Furthermore, Khan showed a rare arrogance by actively ignoring the regulations intended to govern UBSA’s operations with the knowledge and expectation that no one could stop him or punish him for his actions. To me, this shows that UBSA’s own rules are insufficient to contain the selfish and immoral actions of a few. Coming from the point of view of a student government with incredibly robust controls on the powers of its Executive Committee, I find this unacceptable.

While corruption at any level is objectionable, the idea of a corrupt individual in a similar position of power and responsibility that I hold leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I could not imagine betraying the trust Geneseo students have vested in me to do the right thing.

Sikander Khan and Meghan McMonagle should be removed from office immediately, and the UBSA must review the balance of power within its bylaws. Corruption has no place in student governance, and those who seek to perpetuate such a culture of dishonesty and selfishness must be purged from the system.

Editor’s Note: The author of this article is the current vice president of the Geneseo Student Association. However, the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Student Association as a whole.