Senate Introduces New Accounting Practice

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William Nelligan ’14 announced a new initiative on Tuesday, Nov. 5. This initiative will require senate to undergo an audit at the conclusion of each bi-annual funding period.

According to Nelligan, the measure came about as part of an attempt to increase the organization’s accountability by requiring a thorough review of how they allocate funds to student groups. Senate receives its budget of more than half a million dollars in two payments: half at the end of the summer in preparation for the fall semester and the second half at the end of the fall semester in preparation for the spring. These funds come from the mandatory student activity fee, which each student pays yearly along with tuition and room and board. Under the new practice, the college treasurer, who will perform the audit with the college’s CEO, will withhold the transfer of the student activity fee funds until Senate has conducted, approved, and presented the audit.

“Over my four years in Senate, every year we’ve dealt with the same crisis of confidence among the student body,” said Nelligan. “What I hope the end result is [that] we begin to look at student senate as an organization with some real meaningful structural integrity. And students can look at Student Senate as a place where they can go with ideas big and small, and as a place that takes their role as constituents and their role as our funders as something meaningful and something important.”

Student organizations will be required to continue tracking their spending and budgets throughout the academic year, and still go undergo the training, budget request, and review process that is currently in place.

However, Nelligan and other Senate cabinet members hope that the audit stipulation will make Senate think more carefully about how they allocate funds.

“What’s nice about the new audit initiative is that clubs won’t have to do anything that they haven’t been doing already,” said Alex Toole ’14, Senate vice president for Finance. “They’ll continue to fill out fund request forms, and turn in receipts as usual. Going forward, we’ll work with the college and use those as references to hold clubs accountable for how they spend Senate’s money.”

“We’re really going to think more carefully about the things we invest in – what is the return that we expect and how do we measure it,” said Nelligan. “We should really look at clubs as partners, as people that we work with every day. We both have exactly the same mission – every club here is about improving the student life experience here in some way, even in a small narrow way. And Student Senate has the same core mission. With this process, we can really be working together all the time to strategize how to work this money so that it has maximum benefit for the 2300 people that we both serve.”

According to Nelligan, Senate will publish each audit on the college website, and hopes that doing so will help increase both the transparency and accountability of the organization while sparking discussion on the campus about how student organizations operate and obtain funding.

“I hope it starts a conversation as we begin to look very closely at the budget about how we should spend money, what we should spend money on, and what our student group should be spending money on,” added Nelligan. “For me as an individual and a leader, I want to be able to be accountable for [these decisions], and I want to be able to say to any student that comes up to me on any part of this campus and challenges us on something that we have funded or something that we haven’t funded here was our reasoning. Right now I think that what I’ve seen and what our vice president for finance has seen over the past few months is [that] there isn’t the structural integrity in the process for us to be able to say that yet.”

Senate holds open meetings every Tuesday at 7 pm in Denny 317.