SAO to put ‘checks and balances’ on student group transactions

After Lil B controversy, new measures are added to process of signing contracts, transferring big sums between groups

In wake of the controversy surrounding rapper Lil B’s appearance on campus, the Student Activities Office (SAO) will be adding additional “checks and balances” to the process by which student groups can enter into contracts with outside service providers and transfer funds between other groups, according to Leah Flynn Gallant, director of the SAO.

These changes come in response to an incident where a student misrepresenting himself as a member of the Black Students’ Union (BSU) initiated a contract with Lil B without the group’s knowledge. BSU President Grace B. Assaye ’16 described the subsequent series of events, involving a transfer of funds from the UA which the Judicial Board later ruled “constitutionally inappropriate,” as “a learning experience for the offices that were involved.”

“There was really no fact checking in the process, there was no making sure that people who signed off on things were signatories, or actually part of the organization, which really could have prevented these things from happening,” said Assaye. “It’s up to the UA and the SAO to fix that part of the process, which I think the SAO has already done.”

Measures taken by the SAO include requiring “a secondary approval on transfers in excess of $10,000,” said Colin Codner, Assistant Director for Student Activities and Finance. “When a student group is transferring either revenues or expenses from their account to another Institute account, it will require my signature as well.”

Codner said the change would not affect the ability of student groups to host large events.

The SAO will also “make sure we have financial signatories coming in to ask for contracts, not just someone saying ‘I’m a member of this club,’” said Gallant.

This change is designed to prevent a repeat of what happened in October, when a student approached the BSU about bringing rapper Lil B to campus. “He was wondering if we would join him in doing that,” said Grace B. Assaye.

The BSU executive board was still deliberating when they discovered that the student had already initiated a contract with Lil B, which was signed on October 21. The funds from the UA were authorized on October 24, but BSU executive board members were wary about moving forward.

“We were planning not to go through with the event,” said BSU Treasurer Yuseff Hamm ‘16. “We wanted to transfer the money back to the UA.” When Yuseff contacted the SAO to reverse the transfer, he found it was too late.

“The train was already kind of down the track at this point,” said Gallant. “Even if we had said ‘don’t come to campus,’ we would still have been under obligation to pay [Lil B]. Basically we were under contract because it was signed with the understanding that everybody was good to go.”

Despite not having planned to host the event in the first place, the BSU felt that students were excited about bringing Lil B to campus and didn’t want to disappoint. After recovering from an “initial shock,” the BSU decided to “put on the best possible event that we could … as if it was our own in the first place,” said Rasheed K. Auguste ’17, an member of the BSU executive board.

It wasn’t until January that questions arose about where the UA money had come from, or whether its transfer had been authorized by the proper UA channels.

Anonymous over 5 years ago

Independent of the failure to transfer the funds with authorization, it's absolutely unacceptable that anyone thought $12,000 should be spent on an event that 10 of the undergraduate population could attend (due to space limitations).

Anonymous over 5 years ago

should read "less than 10 percent" not "10"

Anonymous over 5 years ago

It sounds like the bureaucracy already exists, but that SAO wasn't enforcing its own signatory rules.

I hope these vaguely-specified new procedures don't waste more of students' time for routine transactions.