By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
An attempt by freshman class officers to get into their class’s formal for free is the focus of heavy criticism by students who organized the event.
Officials in the Freshman Action Council complained to Students’ Association executive president Jonathan Wilkerson April 24, charging that freshman class president Jason Knight had told FAC members who were taking money for tickets in the Campus Center that the officers would be using their class budget to pay for their entry.
“I was a bit appalled,” said Jeff McCain, freshman undeclared major from Houston, and one of the organizers of the formal, “as were all the FACers standing by the table when I walked up.”
Wilkerson said Knight told him earlier in the week that an unnamed FAC official had said the council was “a little behind” in its funds, and the freshman class would help FAC by transferring the remaining $1,050 in its SA account to the council.
However, $250 of that was intended to pay for tickets for the five officers and their dates.
Class vice president Dustin Tallent said he had negotiated a deal ahead of time for the officers to transfer the funds if they could go to the formal free, but he would not say with whom he had negotiated, except that it was “someone who had something to do with freshman formal.”
FAC co-chair David Pittman, senior psychology major from Austin, denied any knowledge that the freshman officers were planning to use class funds to pay for their tickets, admitting, “Some things were explained to me in a way that could have been explained another way.”
McCain said neither he nor Heather Randall, freshman exercise science major from Tulsa, Okla., who helped organize the formal, were approached by anyone about such a deal. Pittman also said he did not know who the person could have been.
“That’s on the person who should have warned them about that happening,” Tallent said. “There was poor organization and leadership skills” on the part of FAC.
Knight told FAC officials that Wilkerson and Pittman approved the use of funds for the officers’ tickets, according to an e-mail Knight sent McCain Friday.
Pittman denied that he authorized the use of money specifically for any purpose.
“They told me they were going to transfer it, and I said, ‘OK,'” Pittman said.
Likewise, Wilkerson said he did not know much about the situation because it occurred as SA changed administrations, and Wilkerson was transitioning from treasurer to president.
“If we had known several weeks ago, I would have said that’s not a good idea,” Wilkerson said.
Knight declined to comment on the situation to the Optimist, saying only that “it was a really big hassle, and it really shouldn’t have been a big problem.
“I totally agree with the FAC stance on the issue,” he added.
After FAC members spoke out last week, class senators Jarred Williams and Melanie Booker paid $50 each, saying they did not know Knight had signed them up as already paid. Sen. Jenna Lucado said she had been told the FAC had approved the move, said Sarah Carlson, freshman journalism major from San Antonio who had complained with McCain to Wilkerson after Knight signed up the officers. Lucado went to the formal with a Big Purple member; Big Purple members and their dates were admitted free.
Knight compromised and paid $25 for his date’s ticket. The prices were $30 for single tickets and $50 for a couple. Tallent, on the other hand, refused to pay for either his or his date’s ticket.
“The freshman formal, which cost $50 a couple, was worth about $5 a couple,” he said. “Fifty dollars for my date night would be much less than they owe me.”
Tallent said FAC was “ignorantly run” by its leaders, and that his work with SA entitled him to a free ticket.
“I’m well worth the $50,” Tallent said. “If they don’t think so, they don’t know the work I’ve put in” for the freshman class. Tallent was chair of an executive committee and on the president’s cabinet and Appropriations Committee this year.
Pittman said Tallent was not qualified to speak on the running of FAC because he had not seen it run in the past.
“FAC did three times as much stuff than has ever been done before,” he said. “As far as them owing Mr. Tallent anything, my ideal is, like it or not, the FACers worked really hard this year. If Dustin has an issue with money he’s owed for working with SA, FAC doesn’t owe that.”
Tallent also charged that FAC was in debt, and thus needed the end-of-term bailout from the freshman class. McCain said the profits earned from the formal made the $800 unnecessary, and that FAC was in the black.
Neither Tallent nor Knight is returning as a class officer. Carlson and McCain both will be sophomore class senators.
Although Carlson and Pittman both conceded that the class officers could use their budget at their discretion, Carlson said the formal organizers themselves never thought about asking to get in free.
“We were really upset,” she said. “We were on fire. There’s nothing technically wrong with it, but if anything, it should be the people who worked on it” to be given free tickets.