If the goal of Student Government is to provide a training ground for politicians in the real world, then so far, FAU is doing a good job. Apparently, the president can be suspected of forgery, invasion of privacy and misappropriation of funds and still stay in office – as long as he doesn’t hurt anyone. Hey, if Bush can get away with it, why shouldn’t Kirk Murray?
Last week, the UP uncovered details of an investigation into SG’s – specifically, Kirk Murray’s – possible involvement in a gift-card scandal. Jason Parsley, the UP reporter who wrote the “Missing Treasure” story, points to several discrepancies in the distribution of $15,000-worth of Barnes & Noble gift cards, including forged applications, 50 cards that are still unaccounted for and an inconsistent allocation process.
In order to receive the $50 cards, students had to fill out a “Treasure Hunt” questionnaire, yet many students whose names were on the forms said that they never applied – and many who did never received their cards. No signatures were required to get the cards, so there was no way to verify who actually received them. The only one who actually knew who got the gift cards was the person handing them out: Kirk Murray.
It’s shocking to think that our own student body president could have stolen students’ identities as well as their money. But it’s even more shocking that nothing has been done about it.
Both FAU police and administration knew about the “situation” five months ago, but to date, they haven’t taken action. The UP reported that FAU auditor Morley Barnett got an anonymous tip in April and that several students had spoken with police regarding Murray’s alleged scheme to buy books with the gift cards and return them for cash.
You would think that, guilty or not, there would be some type of temporary injunction or interim suspension that would relieve Murray of his post while the investigation was pending and until the case was resolved. Criminal charges aside, you’d think that Murray’s pure incompetence in handling the gift-card program would be enough to merit some kind of disciplinary action. For God’s sake, I’ve gotten a transcript hold because my library book was overdue.
SG’s own constitution states that “disciplinary process may be executed when a Student Government official has violated the SG Code of Ethics” and has engaged in, among others, “fiscal improprieties, malfeasance of office, neglect of duty or incompetence” As far as I can see, Murray – who was the vice president at the time – may not be guilty of a crime, but there’s no question that he was negligent and incompetent.
Boca Campus Comptroller – and Murray supporter – Michael Hallenstein said that he’d conduct his own investigation, but after outlining his plan, it became apparent that he was more interested in investigating the UP’s reporting than getting to the bottom of Murray’s conduct. “I’m planning on looking through all the documents that Jason (Parsley) uncovered,” Hallenstein said. “I need to verify that the students in the article actually said what they were quoted as saying and ask them how the UP approached them for information. I think some of them may have been confused.”
Actually, a lot of them were confused. Especially when they were shown applications with their names on them that weren’t even in their handwriting. I would be confused, too, if someone was using my name to get a gift card and then pocketing the money.
Hallenstein suggested several far-fetched theories in response to the evidence, all of which exonerated Murray, although he did admit that the gift-card program was “inadequately supervised.” Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Lisa Bardill says that every student is entitled to due process – which is true. However, leaving Murray in office in light of these allegations is like giving a blank checkbook to a suspected embezzler.
“According to the Code of Student Conduct and Discipline,” Bardill says, “the only time students are subject to an interim suspension is if they have been involved in a violent act.” So, I guess since forgery and theft don’t fall under a violent heading, then it’s OK to leave Murray pulling SG’s purse strings, not to mention continuing to receive a salary and free tuition. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel too comfortable knowing that Murray is controlling more than $6 million of our money.
Bardill says that no disciplinary action will be taken until the Student Affairs VP Charles Brown is brought up to date. The only problem is, Brown just got here. “I’ve only been here for three days,” Brown told me. “I have yet to be briefed on the situation, and I need to speak to the attorneys in detail before I make any comment other than the fact that we will move forward at a swift pace to put the matter behind us and close this chapter in our history.” Let’s just hope that the chapter won’t get torn out of the book before it is even read.