Student Activities Council to hold groups accountable for debt

Fifteen groups are over $1,000 in debt

· October 1, 2012, 12:35 am

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While new student groups will not be receiving funding because of the Student Activities Council’s newest moratorium, some already-recognized groups currently owe SAC money back.

At its general body meeting last Wednesday, SAC released a list of 48 student groups that have accumulated debt since September 2011 — including 15 groups that owe more than $1,000 and three that are more than $2,000 in the red.

These groups will have until SAC’s next GBM, scheduled for Oct. 25, to repay their debt or face sanctions, according to SAC Chair and College senior Melissa Roberts.

Groups will face a budget cut of 5 percent for every $1,000 of debt they have accumulated, with the savings applied toward paying off the groups’ debt. Groups in more significant debt will also have to go through an additional level of approval to receive reimbursement for expenses, and those that owe more than $2,000 will have to present a plan to repay their debt to SAC’s executive board before the GBM.

While SAC listed three groups that have more than $2,000 in debt — Alternate Spring Break, Penn Review and the International Affairs Association — Roberts confirmed that at least one of these groups currently owes more than $9,000. She declined comment further on which group or groups this could be. ASB leaders said they were not available for comment this weekend, and Penn Review and the IAA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“I’m incredibly alarmed by it,” Roberts said of the situation. “And that was one of the major factors in needing to have a moratorium. If groups are going into this much debt this quickly, I can’t with confidence tell you how secure a financial position we’ll be in at the end of the year.”

Groups that owe more than $9,000 will be required to present a short-term repayment plan and a justification for the debt they have accrued to SAC’s executive board. The board will then consider whether to suspend the group’s recognition.

Roberts attributed the debt problem partially to ineffective communication about SAC’s policies within organizations.

“A lot of times you have a new treasurer who isn’t even told how to access their SAC account or how to get reimbursements,” she said.

Roberts added that she is especially concerned with the speed at which groups have accumulated debt, since all groups started the 2011-12 academic year with none. Following a previous moratorium that lasted from January through September 2011, SAC canceled all groups’ debt that had accumulated up to that point.

Roberts hopes that the new system of disincentives and checks — such as meetings with groups in debt and new monthly debt email advisories to groups — will help discourage future overspending.

“I do want to emphasize that there are groups on that list that are making efforts to repay their debt or have already repaid it,” she said, “Obviously some groups are being irresponsible, but there are some where it was just an oversight.”

To help remedy the debt problem, the Office of Student Affairs will also begin mandatory trainings for all treasurers of SAC-recognized groups this semester. Groups that do not attend a training session, or participate in a meeting with their financial liaison, will be de-recognized.

“I’m confident that SAC is dealing with the groups’ debt appropriately,” said College senior and Undergraduate Assembly Treasurer Jake Shuster. “I’m hopeful that groups will learn to be more responsible as we implement more training.”

Shuster also hopes the UA will be able to increase SAC’s budget for funding student groups for the 2013-14 school year at an even higher rate than this year’s appropriation. SAC’s budget this year is $1,001,067, up from $931,292 for the 2011-12 academic year.

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