At the end of the fall semester, the Student Government Association (SGA) revealed that for two years, an accounting error had overfunded each of the four University-wide organizations – the Student Programming Council (SPC), Club Sports, Media Council and Outdoor Emory Organization – as well as the SGA salary and administrative accounts. Money that was supposed to remain in SGA’s contingency account, which is used for SGA-specific events and supplemental funding for clubs, was instead dispersed to each of the other University-wide accounts.
The error occurred when SGA switched to Compass to manage its finances, a software that required a certain process to be conducted manually rather than automatically, at which point an incorrect account code was entered into the system. As a result of the error, each of the four University-wide organizations and SGA itself was required to pay back the funds to the correct SGA account last semester. All organizations were given one year to repay the funds, with the exception of SPC, which was given three years because of the size of its budget.
We see the error – and the fact that it took two years to notice it – as disappointing. While mistakes do happen, this particular error involved money that came from the Student Activity Fee, the $89 students pay with their tuition each semester. It is unfortunate that for such a long period of time, organizations were spending money that did not belong to them. This may have impacted student organizations that had requested funding from SGA’s contingency account and could not receive it. We feel this situation proves that SGA’s finances should be reviewed more closely each semester, whether or not that means hiring another employee in the SGA Business Office – a hiring process which is already underway – or devising alternative measure to ensure more careful oversight.
Additionally, there seems to have been a major miscommunication between Media Council and SGA concerning the terms of the repayment. Media Council claims that they were told in the spring that they would have several years to repay the over allocated funds to SGA, while SGA says they had always been given one year to do so, following an agreement that SGA made with Media Council in the spring. We are unsure which perspective is accurate, but it is clear that more dialogue needs to take place between the two groups, as this miscommunication may have consequences.
We also believe that Media Council should have been given more time to repay SGA given the circumstances surrounding the situation. Not only was the error made on the part of SGA, but Media Council officials now say they are left with a significant debt and are unable to fund different events and bring speakers to campus as they had hoped. Which objective was more important: allowing Media Council to conduct their events as planned, or restoring the balance immediately?
We feel that giving Media Council extra time to repay SGA would have been in the interest of the students and the University as a whole. Because the SGA did not take the time to find a new resolution, Media Council claims they have been unable to achieve their goals for the year. Because SGA was at fault, we believe they should do all they can to work with Media Council to ensure that they can function properly. Media Council governs many student organizations that are an integral part of the Emory experience, and it would be a shame if a generation of students missed out on the full experience.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of The Emory Wheel.
The Emory Wheel is not affiliated with Media Council.