Thomas Kirnbauer checks into the Undergraduate Student Government office, his rugby player frame clad in sweatpants while colleagues like President Mark Maloof don a suit in the office. You couldn’t tell from his unassuming appearance, but Kirnbauer has been one of the most influential treasurers in recent years.
Since assuming office, Kirnbauer helped rewrite the financial bylaws, sued his own organization and has been unafraid to challenge more senior members of USG, to controversial effect.
The junior majoring in political science and aiming to complete the university’s five-year Master of Business Administration program, got involved with USG when its former president, Matt Graham, convinced him to run for office with him in the Fall of 2010.
“It really just kind of brought me in and I’ve really had fun since,” said Kirnbauer, who sees his involvement with USG as an opportunity most college students don’t normally have.
Being involved with USG, he said, allows students to see the improvements they have made on campus and to learn things about SBU they would not have otherwise. One of those new skills learned through involvement with USG is event planning.
“I love event planning,” he said. “Not only does it promote great student life, but it really develops students as leaders and planners,” and it is never easy, he added.
This learning opportunity for student leaders is beneficial beyond the life it brings to campus. For this reason he would like to see more USG money going toward event planning, rather than what he described as excessive spending on food as a way to coerce students to events.
“College students get attracted to food,” he said, “but you’re not going to create campus life by just handing [it] out.”
A recent example Kirnbauer gave of unnecessary expenditures was a club’s allocation request for shot glasses.
His main goal is to see “that the money is being spent appropriately,” and in a way that helps campus life as much as possible.
His drive to ensure that USG is functioning at its highest possible level inspired him to take a controversial action: Kirnbauer decided to sue the organization after realizing that members who were not given voting privileges in the USG constitution had been voting regularly at Student Activities Board meetings.
Kirnbauer often sits in on SAB’s meetings, though not a voting member, because he likes to stay informed. Seeing class representatives voting, despite the rule that they could not due to a policy that money cannot be restricted to a particular class, sparked a question in his head, he said.
“To be very clear,” Kirnbauer said, “it wasn’t anything the class representatives did.”
Though Kirnbauer said that the USG members are a tight-knit group that do a good job tackling problems together, not all members of the organization agreed with his decision.
USG Vice President Deborah Macha low has known Kirnbauer since August 27, 2010 when the two went through Parliamentary Training together.
“To me, he’s always been very friendly,” she said, “yet that doesn’t change the fact that the entirety of this court case was a miscarriage of justice, from conception through ruling.”
Machalow saw the case as “utterly ridiculous,” and it made her “question some officials’ abilities to read.”
Maloof, who has known Kirnbauer since the two began working together in May, shares Machalow’s opinion of the lawsuit.
“I don’t agree with [it],” he said. “I don’t think it’s an accomplishment for USG.”
According to Maloof, last year, there was concern that not enough board members were watching the money. In light othis, he said, nine people overseeing “a pot of half a million” is logical.
“The concern with more eyes is more mouths: when does a room become diluted with opinions to the point that productivity ceases?” he explained. “Because the brief was filed so quickly, I cannot say we will ever have that answer.”
Kirnbauer clarified that his intention was never to be difficult or stop the process.
One piece of USG drama plaguing Kirnbauer’s mind lately is the current conflict between himself and Machalow regarding grant applications.
Last Monday night, Kirnbauer said Machalow went to the organization’s budget meeting and issued her first executive order; that all grants follow a specific format or she will not accept them feeling that those formatted differently are improper for audit. Kirnbauer responded with an executive order that the USG treasurer gets to determine what is acceptable for an audit.
There are three grants currently in question, he explained: a national tournament grant that would allow the men’s rugby team, of which Kirnbauer is a member, to attend its national tournament; an asset grant that would give the Company of Archers $7,000 and a separate event grant for another club.
Because of his involvement with the rugby team, Kirnbauer leaves the room during the debate and voting process, and does not handle any administrative work for the team, making a “very clear separation,” he said.
Machalow did not accept any of the three grants submitted because they were not formatted in accordance with her executive order. Because of this, to the surprise of Kirnbauer and the members of the clubs who were pushing for the grants, the three issues were not on the agenda of this past Thursday’s Senate meeting.
“I’m trying to give people money, I’m trying to give clubs money, and I’m being stopped for pretty much not having two lines on the application,” Kirnbauer said.
The budget committee will try to re-approve the grants this week.
But Kirnbauer is not fighting to give all clubs money—some clubs will lose their line budget status at the end of this semester.
In the financial bylaws, he explained, it says that if clubs do not spend money on events in whole or in part paid for by the student activities fee, they will lose their line budget; if the clubs do not spend any money, they will lose the budget allocated to them.
According to Kirnbauer, a handful of clubs have not spent any money this semester. Those clubs are in danger of losing their budgets completely and the money being reallocated to event grants and clubs that are active and in need of more funding. He would not name the clubs in danger, but he will after they lose their funding at the conclusion of the semester.
“I really just trying to be as transparent as possible with everything,” Kirnbauer said, “and I really, firmly believe that I’m trying to do everything for the better of the student body.”