Dean's Office Seeks to Restrict Outside Student Group AccountsBy Phillip Reich
The recent attention paid by the Dean's Office to student activities with external financial accounts has come as an unwelcome surprise to many student groups.
The Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs and the Office of Residence and Campus Activities have begun to enforce a rule that restricts student groups from maintaining bank accounts outside the Institute's accounting system.
The rule was instituted in 1989. Last year, Assistant Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Susan D. Allen began to focus more attention toward strict monitoring of the system.
Tightens existing policy
"The issue of the outside bank accounts is not a new one. We have been working on enforcing the existing policy for the past several years. I am not sure why some groups think that the crackdown is recent or that the policy is a new one," Allen said.
"I'm not sure I would describe it as a cracking down so much as requesting compliance with existing policy," said Richard L. Brewer, an administrator in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs.
"With improvements in the level of service offered by the student activities accounting system, this is a natural extension of student activity personnel giving more time and attention to student activity accounts," Brewer said.
Groups which rely solely on outside accounts are being most closely monitored, he said.
"Currently, only groups that are under RCA's supervision are being affected. This means that some of the larger groups like The Tech and Lecture Series Committee, which are under control of the Campus Activities Complex, will not be targeted," said Doug Wyatt, president of the Association of Student Activities. But there are only five groups under CAC, so the enforcement covers all other student groups.
Rule enforcement going smoothly
"Recent efforts have gone fairly smoothly," Brewer said. "Organizations are not being collared for non-compliance. There have been allowances for outside accounts based on need, and others have been encouraged to come in over time," he said.
The Dean's Office has told the MIT Science Fiction Society that it needs to change over to an MIT account, said MITSFS President Christopher J. Hooker '96. "They haven't not offered us an ultimatum, but they have strongly encouraged us to make the switch," he said.
The Dean'sOffice will create a working group to review the policy and to make recommendations for improvements early in the spring, Allen said.
"Presently we are working with representatives from the ASA, Undergraduate Association, and the Graduate Student Council" to examine the policy, she said.
"Both the student government and the administration recognize the need to be more specific about the outside bank account policy and have met and will continue to meet to that end," Brewer said.
MIT accounts less convenient
The main issue now lies in finding a solution to the current problem. "Student organizations have outside bank accounts for convenience," said Brewer. They do not want to get rid of them and sacrifice the accessibility they the accounts provide.
"The current MIT system has many problems. I understand it can take up to three weeks to get access to an account held by MIT," Hooker said. The extended period of time would make it difficult to organize and run events, he said.
"If it's not broken, don't fix it," said Steven M. Reid G, president of the Ballroom Dance Club. "Why should we have to shut down our current accounts when they have been working fine so far?"
"The Comptroller's Accounting Office system demands a certain level of accountability," Brewer said. But the student activities accounting system, which is set up by the Dean's Office and RCA, tries to find a medium between convenience and restriction.
Their accounts are harder to access than an outside checking account but do not involve the same high level of accountability as the CAO, Brewer said.
ASA, Dean'sOffice hold meetings
Neither the Dean's Office nor ASA seem pleased with the current state of events concerning the issue. Several meetings have been scheduled for this week and next to discuss recent policy.
ASA is working to change the current policy in favor of one more agreeable to both sides.
"The challenge of the student government and the administration is to find a system which allows for both accessibility and accountability," Brewer said. That goal will be the focus of next week's meetings and the ones to follow.
"Currently, the meetings are going well," Wyatt said. "We have talked with MIT legal officials and the Treasurer's Office. We have a proposal on the table and are currently discussing it with them," he said.
"It looks like they may be open to some change," he added.