UA pays $17,000 for office upgrade
By David P. Hamilton
The Undergraduate Association has spent at least $17,000 improving its Student Center offices since last May, according to estimates provided by former UA President Jonathan Katz '90 and Financial Board Chairman Darian C. Hendricks '89.
The improvements have included a network of Macintosh computers and printers, a new photocopy machine, new furniture for the Finboard office, and a large secretarial desk complete with half-height office partitions and two lateral filing cabinets.
Funding for the improvements came from a variety of sources. For instance, the computer network was partially paid for by a $3000 grant last May from the Associate Provost for Education Reserve, a discretionary fund under the control of Associate Provost S. Jay Keyser. The entire cost of the Finboard furniture was covered by an additional $2000 grant from a similar fund last fall.
Katz also provided $2700 for the computers from the Bush fund, a discretionary trust fund from the 1950s which is administered by the UA President.
Capital funds also used
The remaining expenditures were covered by UA capital requests, which consist of surplus Finboard money left over when
student activities fail to spend their entire allocation.
Last year, Hendricks and then-Finboard chairman Dean S. Ebesu '89 revised the policies under which Finboard distributes $67,000 from the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs to a variety of student activities.
Prior to the reform, Finboard allocated more money to student activities than it possessed, Hendricks said. The old policy was intended to match activity claims with the actual amount of money available to Finboard, he continued.
Because this method led to accounting nightmares, Hendricks and Ebesu decided to restrict Finboard allocations to the money actually handed over by the ODSA. At the same time, they announced that the inevitable surplus funds would be available to all student activities as "capital request" money.
Capital requests are handled much like ordinary allocations: an activity must make a request for a specific purpose and have it approved by Finboard. Hendricks said in late March that the UA had received about $65,000 in capital requests, and was "entertaining" about $44,000 worth. He added that of the 60 or so student activities on campus, 20 to 25 had made capital requests.
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Estimates of UA spending
Hendricks and former UA Vice President Ephraim P. Lin '90 both refused to release either Finboard capital expense records or any UA financial data for comparison purposes, saying that they preferred to wait until they prepare a "full report" on the UA's financial state for presentation at the next UA Council meeting on May 4.
Hendricks was especially vehement, claiming that he'd been "slandered" in the past by reporters who sought financial information without considering "the big picture" of all Finboard allocations and disbursements.
Instead of exact figures, Katz and Hendricks estimated the money the UA spent on office improvements. These estimates included: "five or six thousand dollars" for the Macintosh network and $2000 for a laser printer purchased separately; $2000 for the Finboard office furniture; $6000 for the photocopy machine; and $2400 for the secretarial desk and file cabinets.
Of the $17,000 in expenditures, all but $5700 for the computers and $2000 for the Finboard office furniture came from capital requests submitted by the UA. None of the money was taken out of the UA's own Finboard allocations.
Katz argued that each improvements was made out of necessity. The Macintosh network, for instance, replaced two aging Digital Equipment Corporation microcomputers, one of which had broken, while the purchase of the new photocopy machine turned out to be more cost-effective than other alternatives when the lease on the old machine expired, he said.
The UA has also become more efficient in the management of its money, Katz continued. He said that last year the UA moved to collect on roughly $10,000 to $15,000 in unpaid loans which were several years old.
Validity of estimates uncertain
In at least one instance, however, it appears likely that the UA spending estimates may be understated.
The Macintosh computer network consists of three Macintosh SE computers with 20 megabyte hard disk drives, three Imagewriter printers, and one laser printer. The equipment was purchased last May at the MIT Microcomputer Center.
According to MCC manager Jerry Burke, SE computers and Apple Laserwriters have undergone a ten percent price increase since last May. When a current MCC price list is adjusted for the price increase, the value of the UA equipment amounts to $11,641 at MIT discount rates.
Hendricks had estimated that the UA had spent "five or six thousand dollars" on the SE computers and Imagewriters, and $2000 on the Laserwriter.