SGFC Increases RSO Audits
The Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC) has initiated audits of several Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) his quarter, with several more planned to begin next week. As SGFC has begun to enforce more strictly the auditing provisions of the Student Association's constitution this year, RSOs have correspondingly been keeping more thorough financial records.
According to the bylaws of the constitution, the Finance Committee is responsible not only for reviewing various campus organizations' proposed budgets and making recommendations for the allocation of funds, but also monitoring the spending of these funds.
Random audits are required every year of one out of every 10 RSOs that receive funding. Yet until this year, the proportion of RSOs actually audited was much lower than that stipulated by the bylaws of the Constitution.
Overseeing this stronger commitment to auditing RSOs is the chairman of the Finance Committee Phil Venticinque who stressed that the committee's increased effort is not a result of any complaints or suspicions of wrongdoing but rather that the Committee is striving to bring itself into fuller compliance with the bylaws of the Constitution than it has in the past.
"I am trying to make [auditing] more of a regular feature of the committee's work," he said.
There are no prescribed rules or time limits placed on an RSO when it has been notified of its audit. "We try to work with them and allow the RSO a chance to get their records in order," Venticinque said.
Once the audited RSO has collected its financial paperwork--mostly in the form of receipts for goods and services used for approved projects or events--the Finance Committee then analyzes these receipts and other paperwork to determine if the funds were used in the manner originally described in the RSO's approved budget proposal.
Student Government president Enrique Gomez could not recall any recent incidents in which an audit raised suspicion about an RSO's spending habits.
The consequences for misusing funds are not entirely clear, though the fate of an offending RSO is ultimately determined by the Student Government Assembly, Venticinque said.
Though Venticinque could not cite names of specific RSOs or disclose the status of any of the audits already in progress, he was able to say that he and his seven-person committee are running the audits "as quickly and efficiently" as possible.
These additional audits have significantly increased the workload of the Finance Committee, which is also currently occupied with reviewing the next batch of budget proposals.
Tuition expected to rise 5% next year
Students will have the chance to discuss the high costs of education with top University officials this Tuesday at a symposium on "The Rising Costs of Education" sponsored by Student Government. The symposium will be held February 25 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Hutchinson Commons.
Panelists include President Don Randel, Steve Klass, vice-president and dean of students in the University, Donald Reaves, vice-president and chief financial aid officer, and Michael Behnke, vice-president and dean of college enrollment, as well as both a graduate and an undergraduate student.
After the speeches, students in the audience will have 25 minutes to ask questions.
"This event is for us," said Enrique Gomez, president of SG and a third-year in the College. "We should feel free to ask questions of the president and all these people. We are paying customers at this university, and we have a right to know about this kind of information."
Tuition is expected to rise about five percent next year although final decisions about tuition increases will be made this spring.
Rising education costs are a major concern of most University students, Gomez said. "I'll be sitting at Bartlett having lunch, and it's amazing how many people come to talk to me about this."
The complaints Web site run by SG is regularly flooded with students frustrated by how expensive attending the University can be.
"If they increased tuition any more, I probably wouldn't be able to come here," said Rachel Calvin, a fourth-year in the College.
Graduate students are no exception. "Many graduate students do pay, contrary to public belief, and just as much as undergraduates," said Kimmy Szeto, a third-year graduate student in the music department.
"I don't mean to say that undergrads are slackers, but it's harder for grad students. Faculty expect us to work a lot harder. We don't have time to make the money to help us pay for school. And parents don't help pay the bills any more," she said.
The University's tuition, currently $27, 324, is on par with those of other top universities. For this academic year, MIT's undergraduate tuition is $28,230, Princeton's $27,230, Yale's $27,130, Northwestern's $27,207, and Harvard's $24,630.
Although last year Chicago's tuition only increased by five percent, since the 1995-1996 academic year, it has risen over 37 percent.
"As long as the price reflects the costs, then there's no reason for complaint," said fourth-year in the College Shannon Harwick.
Calvin agreed. "As long as the extra tuition isn't going into some administrator's pocket or to Taco Bell, I'm OK with it."
Gomez hopes Tuesday's symposium will make the University's policy-makers more aware of students' complaints and recommendations. "Usually these kinds of discussions happen behind closed doors, in a conference room with just faculty or with just administrators, or just students chatting at a lunch table."