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Plan to Register Dorm Accounts Delays Release of House Taxes

By Brett Altschul
News Editor

Dormitory tax funds should be released tomorrow after a short delay. With the funds, dormitories governments will receive a memo asking them to register their outside bank accounts and reminding them of MIT's current policy on spending Institute funds on alcohol.

The checks normally go out early in the semester, said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates. This year they were delayed slightly because the new cover letter had not been written, she said.

"We all have a little too much on our plates," Bates said. The administration was not deliberately trying to withhold the money, she added. When the administration was notified about the delay on Monday, "Immediately, people said, We need to get this out,'" she said.

The memo will remind dormitory governments that they need to register their outside accounts with the Office of Residence and Campus Activities, which oversees student activities' finances.

"These funds, as with activities funds, are Institute funds," said Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Andrew M. Eisenmann '70, and thus fall under the current MIT policy, which requires that all money either be in internal MIT accounts or in registered outside accounts.

Originally, the administration intended to withhold the funds until the dormitories registered their outside accounts, Eisenmann said. However, the delay in writing the memo made this impossible.

"Because of the delay, we're going to release the funds," Eisenmann said. The March 31 deadline was set to give dormitories time to respond, he said.

MIT needs account information

Eisenmann said that it was important that MIT keep accurate records of dormitories' funds. "There's an institutional responsibility here," he said.

Eisenmann said that MIT is responsible for all money in accounts filed under the Institute's non-profit taxpayer identification number. "What's important is that these are Institute funds and that MIT's tax ID number isn't jeopardized," Eisenmann said. "It's in tune with MIT's need for control of funds in general," he said.

The memo is mostly a reminder to dormitories, not a threat of punishment, he said. "I don't think that we want to be punitive," he said. "Our preference is to have people do the right thing."

Delay worries some dormitories

"We're running kind of low on money," said Robin Chiu '00, vice-president of McCormick Hall.

Although McCormick hasn't canceled any events, the dormitory will effectively run out of money by the end of the week unless they receive their house tax funds, Chiu said. "We're getting to that stage," she added.

While McCormick was waiting for their money, Chiu said she asked to the dormitory's study break and social chairs to watch their spending. "We're being careful," she said.

"I'm relieved that the money should be here soon," she said. Without it, dormitory officers would have needed to start paying for events out of their own pockets, she added.

Chiu was upset that RCA never informed them that the funds would be released late this year. The government of McCormick didn't find out until they called to ask why hadn't gotten the money, she said. "It wasn't very nice of them not to tell us," she said.

Eisenmann admitted that the delay could have caused problems for some dormitories. "I know it had some adverse effects," he said. "Our hope had been to get the letter out early enough.

Other dormitories were in better shape. "Right now, we have a lot of money left," said Edgardo J. Jimenez '00, the treasurer of MacGregor House. MacGregor has enough money for three to four more weeks, he said.

Ashesh P. Shah '98, the president of the Dormitory Council, also felt that students should have learned about the delay earlier.

"I don't think it's good for them to stop the funds moving," he said. "It seems sort of odd to me that they would do this out of the blue and on top of that not tell anybody," he added. "If they told me a week ago, then it wouldn't be a surprise to anybody," he said.

However, Shah said that the delay itself shouldn't really be a problem. "If they're just composing a letter and sending it along, that's fine," he said. "If anything, they've been delayed by a week, which is not a big problem."

Shah emphasized that if RCA was going to actively require dormitory's to register their outside bank accounts, then other student groups should be treated the same way. "If they're sending it to us they should send it to everybody - every house, every organization," he said.

Dan McGuire and Douglas E. Heimburger contributed to the reporting of this story.