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Mandatory student fees pay for Mardi Gras partying during ‘diversity convention’

‘It doesn’t look too great on social media if we’re posting pictures at Mardi Gras’

It was just a coincidence that the National Student Leadership Diversity Convention was in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, huh?

The amount of money that University of Albany student leaders spent on Uber rides for apparently non-convention outings is causing a stir in the student senate, which considered legislation to rein in “conference line spending,” the Albany Student Press reports.

Several “executive branch members” including the Student Association president, vice president, chief of staff and communications director went on the trip, which cost $5,000.

Two-thirds of their $500 in Uber receipts show trips between their hotel “into the New Orleans French Quarter or vice-versa,” the center of Mardi Gras:

“Five-hundred dollars was spent on Ubers to go from bar-to-bar-to-bar in the middle of the night,” said Senate Chair Jarrett Altilio who called the bill a “direct response” to an ongoing issue involving SA’s conference line spending.

Langie Cadesca, chief of staff, explained that SA only used Ubers to dine out, not drink. Meal expenses were made out-of-pocket.

“Whenever we utilized Uber it was either to go have lunch or dinner,” said Cadesca who noted the there were no restaurant locations within proximity to the group’s hotel.

Several senators echoed Altilio’s response including Government Operations chair Anna Agnes, who sponsored the bill.

“It doesn’t look too great on social media if we’re posting pictures at Mardi Gras and we’re supposed to be at a conference,” she said, noting several of the images circulating showed attendees holding alcoholic beverages.

Before the convention, Agnes accused student leaders of misappropriating mandatory student activity fees for what amounts to “a vacation,” not a student government function, according to the Student Press. She wants to further cut the executive conference line for the Student Association, which currently stands at $5,000 – half the amount in last year’s budget.

President Jerlisa Fontaine told Campus Reform that they could have run into the same situation any time of year in the Big Easy:

“New Orleans is a popular tourism city all year round and can, apparently, get crowded,” she explained. “For that reason, the Uber drivers leave you as close to the main areas in New Orleans as possible, but rarely bring you to the exact location due to traffic.”

She justified the trip based on the student government’s need to “learn different ways to deal with the various issues that fall under ‘diversity’ on campuses so that we could discuss this topic more with administration to plan means of change for the future of our university.”

Fontaine previously vetoed a bill that would require legislative approval for executives to use conference funds, even though it passed by a “super-majority,” according to the Student Press, which doesn’t explain how a veto can surpass a supermajority.

Read Student Press and Campus Reform coverage.

MORE: Lawsuit says conservative, faith-based student groups locked out of fees

IMAGE: Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

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