U of C decides on campus bank

By Carolina Bolado

After much deliberation, the University banking committee has decided upon a bank to occupy the space on 57th Street and Ellis Avenue. The University has been considering different options because Citibank’s contract will expire this spring if not renewed. The committee’s unanimous decision will be released today.

Three finalist banks have been identified; of these, one is a large multinational corporation, one is a regional bank, and another is local. Because of the confidentiality agreement reached during the purchasing process, the names of the three banks cannot be released.

“This relationship is purely done as a service to students, staff, and faculty. It is a partnership to provide free financial services to students,” said Bill Michel, the deputy dean of students in the University and assistant dean of the College, as well as a member of the banking committee.

Citibank has been on campus since 1996, when it replaced Hyde Park Bank. Anticipating the imminent expiration of the Citibank contract, the University gathered students’ opinions about their banking needs in a survey last April. Students voiced a great deal of concern about financial education and the need for tellers. According to Michel, each of the three finalists agreed to provide these services if selected.

“Banking surveys helped the most,” said Ryan Nelson, a third-year law student who is on the banking committee.

“The biggest things were not having to pay to access or store your money.”

The University sent out proposals to 15 banks; six replied, and the committee narrowed it down from there. “It’s good that we did the proposal process,” Nelson said. “When Citibank was chosen six years ago, there was no process like this. By introducing some competition, we were able to get some concessions.”

The committee met once a week for over a month, soliciting input not only from student surveys, but from student groups as well. “We talked with a group of students who had voiced specific concerns about Citibank, and they provided us with a couple page letter,” Michel said.

The Campaign for Responsible Banking has been leading an effort to convince the University to not renew the contract with Citibank. According to Justin Rolfe-Redding, a second-year in the College and the lead organizer of the group, Citibank is notorious for predatory lending and irresponsible treatment of the environment. He also cites that Citibank had advertised free checking, but at the beginning of the school year, students were getting charged $15 per month for checking accounts.

“The University is committed to making an investment in the community, and this is not a business that they should be associating with,” Rolfe-Redding said.

The Campaign for Responsible Banking, a student organization, collected 653 signatures of people who were displeased with Citibank and presented this, along with data and other information about the bank, to the banking committee.

“I have nothing but praise for the members of the banking committee. They’ve been really open and I think it’s obvious that they are taking us seriously,” Rolfe-Redding said.

“Every single concern that was raised by anyone that had to do with banking was heard by this committee. Everything was discussed. I can’t stress that enough,” Nelson said. He and Matt Nirider, a third-year in the College, were the two student representatives on the 11-member committee.

The campus branch of the chosen bank will have the opportunity to operate ATMs on campus. According to Michel, however, if the bank chooses not to put up an ATM in a certain location, other banks will be able to do so.

“We’ve created an ongoing advisory council with the bank so we can work closely with the bank and assure communication between students, staff, and faculty over time,” Michel said.

“It was a unanimous choice and we all agreed on what we did,” Nelson said.