Former senator calls for more university oversight of UB Student Association
Yaser Soliman plans to resign, advocate for reform
Yaser Soliman believes UB should have more oversight over the Student Association instead of “just handing SA a check for over $4 million every year and turning a blind eye to everything.”
He says that with a little more professional oversight, he could very well be chairperson of the SA senate right now instead of handing in his resignation papers Monday morning and calling for reform as an outsider.
Soliman, who nearly two weeks ago lost a senate chair election that SA’s own attorney says was mishandled and invalid, granted The Spectrum a formal interview for the first time Saturday. He said he plans to write an open letter to President Satish Tripathi calling for more oversight of UB’s student government that is student-run and collects approximately $4 million in student fees.
“The money is charged from our UB tuition and carries the university’s name,” Soliman said. “We are one of the few student governments in the country with a budget of that magnitude that is completely independent … there’s a reason we’re one of the few – because it just doesn’t work.”
Soliman said he doesn’t want the UB administration to completely control SA – he just wants it to have a more active role. He thinks that with this, past SA scandals like a former treasurer attempting to put $300,000 into a fraudulent app and a former president resigning amid allegations of mishandling funds and harassment could be avoided.
Same goes for the election he lost – an election in which SA President Minahil Khan went off past precedent and not the SA constitution by not allowing a senator to vote for being late and casting a vote for Dillon Smith to break a tie.
Soliman said had UB handled the situation after the election missteps, it would have done so “professionally” and administrators would have allowed Joe Jessee, the senator who arrived late, to vote and discounted Khan’s ballot – which would have made Soliman senate chair.
Khan, who denies any intent to keep Soliman out of office, said SA already has a considerable amount of university oversight. She said Luke Haumesser, assistant director of student activities in Student Life, must approve every single SA purchase order and advanced check and the SA senate, Student Life and SUNY must approve SA’s budget.
She also said Student Life must approve almost all SA contracts and alcohol requests.
“I think there is a sufficient amount of oversight and people don’t realize the interactions between the checks and balances,” Khan said.
Khan encouraged Soliman to stay on senate in a meeting between the two Friday and Soliman said others have told him to run for chair again in the new election on Monday evening. But Soliman said him staying in SA will only bring negativity to the senate and he wants the body to have a productive year.
“I won’t be a part of something with a target on my back and so much negativity toward me,” Soliman said. “I’m just going to advocate reform from the outside.”
When asked if he would consider running for SA president this spring to make changes, Soliman said “probably not.”
He said he’s never thought about it before and he wouldn’t be able to commit the time due to outside work like running for Lackawanna school board. Soliman also said him running for president would bring animosity into SA.
Soliman said he never threatened legal action against SA over the chair election. He said he only said he would seek out an attorney, which he says he did.
“I don’t threaten anyone or say something and then not follow through with it,” Soliman said. “That’s not how I roll.”
Soliman said he would have won if he sued SA and that money was not an issue because he could have represented himself. He said he decided not to sue in the best interest of students and wants to use the opportunity to call for reform.
Soliman said he understands students wanting SA to remain independent, but that the organization is at a point that UB has to “draw the line.”
“It may sound [good] in principle, ‘Oh, we want to stay completely independent,’ but they need the guidance,” Soliman said. “They need the help. The organization is just completely dysfunctional.”