Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that Sam Sokoloff was paid for a two week period, not one. Although Sokoloff said during the initial interview that he was paid weekly, he later clarified to the Kansan post-publication that he was paid biweekly.
In interviews with the University Daily Kansan, former Chief of Staff Sam Sokoloff, and freshman senator Blake Bailey accused the Student Senate Executive branch of financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency, things which Bailey hopes to change with a Student Body Presidential run.
Sokoloff resigned as Chief of Staff earlier this month after a controversial bill was presented to the full assembly. He said his turning point for this decision was the lack of transparency within the Student Senate and because he felt his opinions were invalid.
“I respect everybody on the executive staff as people, however, I feel that there are certain members of the executive staff that did not respect my input even though I was doing all the work and conducting my job to the best of my abilities and I feel that most people in the assembly would agree with that,” Sokoloff said in an interview with the Kansan. “It was difficult for me to continue on with the position and to spend the rest of my senior year in a workplace where I did not feel like my input was valued.”
Student Body President Sadie Williams declined to comment on Sokoloff’s resignation.
Bailey said that he believes StudEx should have been more transparent with the assembly and student body, something he plans to do with his presidential run.
“This upcoming spring semester, I’m running for Student Body President and for a lot of the reasons we mentioned regarding transparency,” Bailey said.
In his interview with the Kansan, Sokoloff said he worries the problems within Student Senate could potentially harm the student body. He said that the current administration, Student Body President or Student Body Vice President, has yet to propose legislation or push policies through the assembly.
“There’s kind of been a recurrent theme of scandals happening throughout Student Senate at my time at KU, but also just in general,” Sokoloff said. “It seems like every year some Exec staff has some big crisis or something that basically makes it so doing their jobs faithfully and fully doesn’t work out.”
Sokoloff also said many members of the StudEx board are receiving high salaries for hours they didn’t work.
“While I was on Exec during the summer, I made like $720 over [two weeks],” Sokoloff said. “I was salaried at 29 hours a week. However, I did not work 29 hours a week. There's no way I did.”
The resolution raised questions implicating members of the Student Executive Board for not telling the complete student assembly what their trip to Washington, D.C., would entail. The sponsors of the resolution, Bailey and senator Austin Stiffler, said they wanted the Student Executive branch to show the student body and student assembly how over $5,000 of student fee money was to be used.
“So my whole motive and the motive of those involved in this was not to cause a stir within the assembly or cause a stir within the student body,” Bailey said in an interview. “But [it] was to just seek for the clarification and to get information as to where the student body’s money was being spent.”
During the meeting, Williams said that Student Senate should take the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and advocate for the University of Kansas students.
“Advocacy is central to the work and goals of Student Senate at KU and student life in general,” Williams said in a statement to the Kansan. “Being able to have meaningful, face-to-face conversations with the leaders of our University, State, and Federal governments is one of our foremost obligations as representatives of the student body.”
The resolution claimed there was a problem with senators not knowing what StudEx was planning to do while in D.C.
“When lobbying, they provided no specifics or concrete policy statements or any details or specifics as to what's going to be lobbied for,” Sokoloff said.
At the full Student Senate assembly Wednesday night, DaNae Estabine, the government relations director, informed the group that they would be advocating for mental health resources as well as college affordability.
“Attending this conference to advocate for our students is extremely important for any chance of receiving increases in funding/resources,” Estabine said in a statement to the Kansan. “Furthermore, we'd like to start building relationships with our D.C.-based Kansas delegation in order to incite change. Going there to meet with them and form personal relationships is how we make that happen.”
The Student Executive Board will take six members to Washington, D.C., next week.