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RCA Notifies Groups Of Accounting Errors

By Jennifer Lane
News Editor

The Office of Residence and Campus Activities recently sent e-mail to student group leaders informing them of their activities' current account balances, which were recently adjusted to account for mismanaged transactions.

This notification brings some closure to RCA's mismanagement of student accounts to the tune of around $140,000.

"I think the surprises are over,"said Association of Student Activities President Douglas K. Wyatt G.

The accurate account statements negatively affected roughly 20 groups in a significant way, Wyatt said.

The e-mail sent to student groups gave a detailed record of transactions as well as a description of the errors made. The mail also specified whether each incorrect transaction had been either improperly voided, double-entered, or had only occurred halfway,' meaning that the transaction was intended for the student account but the money never actually got there.

Miscalculated transactions were made both in favor of and against student groups, so the totals tended to even out in the end, Wyatt said.

Most groups who were significantly affected by the account mismanagement had already known that their accounts were in serious trouble, and some had been brought into reconciliation discussions with RCA, Wyatt said.

Groups did not keep good records

"If a group had kept accurate records, they would have known that there was some funky stuff going on," Wyatt said.

In some cases, however, those accurate records were next to impossible to keep. RCA is currently dealing with student groups' questions over the source of some of improperly recorded charges.

"The old [RCA accounting] system was effective as long as groups kept their own accurate records," said Counterpoint President Mark L. Huang '99. In some cases, however, it was often difficult to keep up with the problems of having an RCA account, he said.

"There are certain kinds of charges that groups may not have even been aware that they were incurring, and these charges were not showing up in a timely way" on account statements, said Associate Dean for RCA Andrew M. Eisenmann '75.

These charges consisted mostly of items that had to be charged to a departmental account, like Physical Plant work orders that can be incurred after reserving a room in Walker Memorial, Eisenmann said.

Without any better alternative, Physical Plant and other organizations would bill charges to an umbrella student group account number, and the charge would then either show up very late or not at all on individual group account statements.

It was "like having your personal bank account handled by 350 family members every day," Huang said.

In order to correctly place the charges, members of RCA, ASA, and the Undergraduate Association had to sift through original documents pertaining to the charges and assign them to the appropriate groups, Eisenmann said.

"Once [groups] were provided with the documentation, they usually understood"the charges, Eisenmann said.

"We put in a lot of work over the summer," said The Thistle's Financial Coordinator Teresa W. Lau '95. We were "a little scared that all this money didn't come through to us, and we didn't know who would be giving us this money," she said.

In order to properly track the transactions, Lau and representatives from RCA had to go through each transaction according to central accounting, RCA, and then The Thistle's records.

Some unable to follow transactions

Complicating the confusion is the fact that student group leadership often changes completely every year. Many student group leaders were not around when the misplaced transactions occurred, Wyatt said.

"A lot of groups have very high turnaround and are unable to keep up with all of their account information," Huang said.

Because of this situation, RCA and representatives from the ASAand the UA decided to hold student groups responsible for their account balances only for the past fiscal year.

Any debts from the previous two fiscal years will be absorbed by the Provost's Office, and any surplus from those years will be credited to the groups, Eisenmann said.

"People seemed to agree that holding folks responsible for that one fiscal year seemed to make sense," Eisenmann said. "Before that time, it is hard for groups to have institutional memory of what went on."

The time limit on student groups' responsibility is agreeable to everyone but came after considerable discussion between RCA, ASA, UA, and Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates and Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.

"We were of the opinion that [the accounts mismanagement] was an RCA screw-up and RCA should pay for it," Wyatt said. "Some groups had tried to fix the problem and were not allowed to."

UATreasurer Russell S. Light '98 and Wyatt argued for as much student group forgiveness as possible, Wyatt said.

It was clear that RCA would pay off debts for groups that died in debt and would also pay for the half'-entered transactions, Wyatt said. Beyond that, "it was mostly a question of convincing the people with money to pay,"he said.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
The story began on page 1 and jumped to page 15.

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