Audit suggests misuse of student funds

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April 20, 2010

5:28 AM

A report issued Monday following an independent student audit of the Consolidated Student Publication Reserve Fund has indicated that the Office of Student Activities used the fund to pay graduate assistants $11,000.08 in 2007-08 and $12,000 in 2009-10.

The auditors, Taylor Porter ’11 and Leslie Lambert MBA ’10, indicated in their report that the expenditures violated the Student Assembly and Publications Council contract, which stipulates when and how the fund can be used.

The CSP reserve fund exists outside the collective budget of the Publications Council, and is used as an auxiliary fund for council members including The Colonial Echo, The DoG Street Journal, The Flat Hat, The Gallery, jump!, The Monitor (Journal of International Studies), Not Wythe-Standing the News, The Pillory, W&M Review, Winged Nation, WCWM 90.9 FM Radio and WMTV (Television).

The $12,000 spent during the 2009-10 academic year was approved by Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D ’06, who ran the use of the fund past the College’s Internal Auditor Mike Stump.

“That particular expenditure is one I authorized as a temporary charge for a graduate assistant stipend, with the understanding that the account would be reimbursed this spring from a new student affairs endowment which I administer, and from which I can now for the first time draw funds,” Ambler said in an e-mail.

The funds have not been reimbursed, but will be coming out of the Sadler Endowment, Ambler said.

According to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine, the CSP Reserve Fund had been used to pay for graduate assistants prior to the existence of a Publications Council contract, which was signed March 24, 2007 by then-SA President Ryan Scofield ’07 and Publications Council Chair Bradley Justus ’07. The use of the fund was based on an agreement that was independent of the publications contract between the SA and the Publications Council.

“It was understood because that was how it had been done in the past,” Constantine said. “The point of that contract was to stop publications [from paying staff members].”

The 2007 contract explicitly prohibits student publications from paying staffers. The contract also states: “The CSP [Consolidated Student Publications Reserve Fund] from the enactment of this contract forth will have a $100,000 ceiling. Any and all funds that accrue above this amount will be transferred back to the Student Assembly into the Consolidated Student Activities Reserve Fund (CSA). All funds equal to or below $100,000 will become the sole possession of the Publications Council. Only the Publications Council will have the ability to make expenditures from this fund.”

According to Publications Council Chair Meredith Howard ’11, Constantine made the council aware of the expenditure at a meeting earlier this year. He also made clear that the money would be reimbursed.

“At the time … none of the council seemed very upset,” Howard said. “According to our contract, it would seem to be a violation … it would have been preferable if he had made it known at the time of the withdrawal.”

The position funded by the withdrawal — which was assigned to the Office of Community Engagement Services — was created during the summer of 2009, prior to the council’s first meeting of the current academic year.

According to Constantine, the $11,000.08 withdrawn from the account for the 2007-08 year was for a position that had been established prior to the signing of the Publications Council contract. The use of reserve funds for graduate assistants was eliminated during the 2008-09 year, only to be reinstated this year as a way to temporarily fund the position in OCES.

The report also alleges that the Office of Student Activities improperly reconciled its day-to-day finances with Banner, which the College of William and Mary uses for financial recording.

A written response to the audit from the executive branch of the SA urged that the College implement the recommendations of the student auditors, which include separating the duties of administrators within the Office of Student Activities to establish more accountability, a better accounting of day-to-day accounts within the office and additional investigation into the usage of the reserve fund.

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