Letter to the Editor

This open letter, addressed to Matthew Hatle and the editorial board of City College News, was originally posted on the Student Senate’s open forum Facebook page on March 1, expanded upon on March 4, and finalized and submitted March 8, has been updated from the original to reflect additional information and comments made, and for clarity.

To whom it may concern;

        This letter is in response to the article published in the February 26 volume of City College News entitled, “Hatle first to enter presidential fray,” in which Mr. Hatle proceeds to complain about the way in which the Student Life Budget Committee (SLBC), and how I specifically, handled “his” request of $7500.

        First, a few points of information. This request for $7500 represented, at the time, over one-fourth of the entire remaining budget that supports funding for all clubs on campus.  A request of that amount is nearly a full percent (actually 0.91%, I did the math wrong the first time) of the entire annual Student Life Fund. This fund is used by 55 (and rising) different clubs, organizations, faculty initiatives, activities, and other concerns, such as the bus pass subsidy and Student Life, and it funds several staff members’ salaries and benefits. This amount is also in excess of the entire annual budget of 38 of the 43 (and rising) active clubs on campus… for a single event. Furthermore, the Student Life guide states:

“The SLBC has the discretion to subject proposals to partial funding if an organization is requesting more than $500 or if the cost per student is deemed excessive.” (Student Life guide, page 8 item 13).

In the article, Mr. Hatle asks, “Why were we getting asked these crazy questions?” Mr. Hatle, you were being asked very reasonable questions by the committee responsible for overseeing the Student Life budget. In addition, this request came from an academic program, rather than a student-led club or student driven initiative. I was initially contacted by Professor Palombo regarding the possibility of funding this event while we were on winter break, when the SLBC meets only to review the mid-term audit. The request came with several “sponsors” attached who did not contribute financially to the cost of the event, even though they were perfectly capable of doing so. Naturally, we had questions; among them who would be able to help fund this request, and we needed to address several portions that appeared to, and in fact did, violate funding guidelines. It certainly appears Mr. Hatle simply wanted us to give him the money he wanted and not have to answer any questions, adhere to the same rules as everyone else, or do any work for it. As far as being “grilled,” the committee as a whole had several questions due to the convoluted and large nature of the request, as well as the fact that several aspects of the request violated Student Life guidelines. Furthermore, the SLBC is responsible for ensuring that these funds are disbursed in the best interest of the student body as a whole and in accordance with college and student life policies. Oh, and in case Mr. Hatle didn’t mention this, after asking those making the request to correct areas in violation of policy, informing them of our responsibilities, and asking them to attempt to find other sources (true sponsors) of partial funding, the SLBC approved the remaining amount… saving students over $4,000 with our “crazy questions” in the process. We also expressed support of the event and its stated goals, but were concerned with the above mentioned aspects. Those little details must have slipped his mind during the interview; I would also like to publicly thank Professor Palombo for his hard work.

        The above information begs several questions:

Does allocating almost a percent of our annual budget, and over 25% of our remaining unallocated funds for a single event best serve the needs of the student body as a whole? Does Mr. Hatle believe that this committee, which is the only direct student input on our budgetary process, should be a rubber stamp for any and all requests that walk in the door, especially those from faculty? Should the only body with direct input to the allocation of the students’ money not ask questions when funds are requested? If we do not ask questions, how can we determine whether or not this should be deemed an excessive per student expense? What is wrong about suggesting that those clubs, faculty, and academic programs sponsoring this event try to control costs by requesting some of the money come from faculty and academic program accounts? Does Mr. Hatle have any awareness of the several sets of rules that govern our decision making process? Should anyone ever have any accountability at all? We as a committee informed Mr. Hatle of several main points of our responsibilities, as well as acquainted him with the guidelines that are in place in regards to funding requests from any source; in fact, Mr. Hatle has attended SLBC’s weekly meetings on multiple occasions in the past, to observe and make requests on behalf of CCN. It is apparent to me now that this information, as well as past experiences, went unheeded and ignored by Mr. Hatle.

        Mr. Hatle also posits that he plans to address several lingering issues, such as Sodexo, Higher One, and the basketball program. I wonder if he has any knowledge of what has been done, what is currently being done, what outcomes have taken place, what strategies have been used, and how to actually go about addressing these issues? I’m betting he doesn’t, because he would actually have to communicate directly with the people involved, and to my knowledge that has not been done in any of these areas aside from attending a single committee meeting. I certainly have not seen any positive action or involvement from Mr. Hatle in regards to these issues, other than to announce his candidacy. At all. The behaviors and attitudes demonstrated by Mr. Hatle, such as passive-aggressive communication, blatant insults, and a lack of involvement, do not seem to be that of a leader; it is easy to criticize and point out problems; it is much harder to get involved, take action, provide meaningful leadership, and especially to provide meaningful oversight.

        After the original posting of this letter, Mr. Hatle responded on his campaign website with, essentially, an unrelated string of accomplishments. While those accomplishments are admirable, they did not address the questions I asked. Mr. Hatle, you also state, “Pointing out problems and frustrations, did not know that was poor leadership. Acknowledging the problems of right now, didn’t know that was poor leadership. Wanting to look into problems, and wants and needs, yes maybe it is to optimistic. But would you rather have someone with goals and wants instead of something random popping up.”
I never said any of those things were poor leadership. I said your behavior, that of not being involved in solving these problems now, and of criticizing without getting involved, were not characteristics of a leader. Talking about the committee to the paper rather than bringing your problems to us directly is very passive-aggressive, is also not demonstrative of good leadership, and frankly, is insulting. Calling the questions we asked “crazy,” as you did in the original article published on February 26, is also insulting. Extremely insulting. The last sentence of the above quote, “But would you rather have someone with goals and wants instead of something random popping up,” is also insulting, implying that I and other current leaders do not have goals and have not had any accomplishments. So far, we have accomplished many things in our roles as executive board members, and they did not come about “randomly”. They took hard work, that of many people.

        You also mischaracterize me on your facebook page, stating, “This is what my opponent wrote to me on a open forum Facebook page,” and then quote the original article. Mr. Hatle, I am not your opponent. I’m flattered if you are stating your intention of nominating me, but I will use the opportunity to quote a great man, Civil War General Tecumseh Sherman: “I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.” This quote expresses my position exactly. I have been asked to run for President by several people; the fact is, I will not be running for any future position within Student Senate; this semester or next. As I have already been a member of the Student Life Budget Committee for the last three years, and Director of Finance since July 1, 2012, and as I will be completing the Addiction Counseling program next fall semester, I feel I have done my duty in serving the students of MCTC, and served always with the best interests of all students uppermost in mind. In fact, I believe I would be doing the student body a disservice by seeking a leadership position next year; I simply will not have the time to properly devote to such a position. I also believe it is wrong to build a political career on the basis of attempting to discredit a person who is simply fulfilling the requirements of their position, as it appears you are attempting to do.

        Mr. Hatle also asked, on his campaign page, “Do you think the executive board can’t handle a little criticism?” The answer to that is we can and have handled criticism, and have adjusted appropriately. I will not, however, stay silent when faced with unjustified criticism and blatant insults. You asked questions, Mr. Hatle, and I answered them. I have asked you questions, Mr. Hatle, and you have refused to answer any of them thus far. Since you seem to be incapable of communicating with me directly, including the failure to give an official response as was stated on your campaign page would happen March 6, this is the form those questions and answers took. If you don’t like my answers, or my questions, that is not my problem. Mr. Hatle, if you continue to lie about what I am saying, misrepresent me, and insult me, I will not stand for it.

        Next, I would like to address the fact that the article states, “That experience, [in SLBC’s weekly meeting,] he said, was the seed of the campaign he is now running.”  The article calls it, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” If Mr. Hatle would like the SLBC to be handled differently, I would suggest he run for Director of Finance rather than President, as the Director of Finance position chairs the budget committee per the Student Senate By-Laws. Mr. Hatle may also have joined the committee, which has had positions consistently open for much of this semester and all of last semester. I personally announced openings multiple times at both Senate and SLBC meetings, but Mr. Hatle declined to have any involvement with this committee.

        Speaking of “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” this article shows how City College News continues to have an utter lack of journalistic integrity. It is unfortunate that the school’s only official newspaper insists on printing misinformation, biased articles, and sometimes flatout lies without bothering to seek comment from those involved. As an officer of Student Senate’s executive board, I have been mentioned, either directly or indirectly, in several articles this year; writers have seldom if ever sought a reply, information, or comment… before printing or after. This is not the first time Senate’s executive board members have been either mischaracterized or criticized simply for following rules, or for fulfilling the duties we were elected for. In fact, CCN writers, editors, and staff had not even bothered to check the spelling of my name prior to printing; I had to point out that it was misprinted last semester, which is just further indication of the fact that CCN has neglected to do its duty in ensuring balance, accuracy, and impartiality, and in consulting the subjects of their articles prior to publishing. It is depressing that the journalists and writers of the future do not bother to get their facts straight before printing. One would hope that with the ongoing downfall of the mainstream media in terms of their balance, fairness, honesty, and integrity, that those coming up in the field would try to make meaningful changes rather that support the status quo.

        Furthermore, I wonder if every candidate will get a positive, front-page article just before the Student Senate election, or if that is reserved for former members of CCN. The obvious cronyism evident from this article is despicable. If the current editorial board of CCN wants to have any credibility or integrity whatsoever, they will print this letter; and I would challenge CCN to print this letter with the same prominence (on the front page) as the one in which I am unjustly maligned and insulted. After consulting with the current Editor in Chief of CCN, I was informed there is already a policy in place regarding the obligation of writers to seek comment from the subjects and collateral persons involved in their article. Why has this rule been ignored for the entire school year? What will be the ramifications for the writer of this article? Will there be any accountability? I would call on the editorial board of CCN to begin requiring writers to seek comments from the subjects and collateral persons involved in their articles, to document attempts made, to refuse to print articles from any of your staff, writers, editors, or members which do not offer a meaningful opportunity for those involved to comment, to hold accountable those who have violated this rule, and to offer a front-page, positive article for each presidential candidate that comes forward.

Andrew Van Hauer is the Director of Finance of MCTC’s Student Senate