Hall committees fear “too much scrutiny” over release of finances to student body

Photo: University of St Andrews
Halls of residence committees are reluctant to release details of their spending to the wider  student body despite promising to make the information available to their hall residents,  questioning by The Saint has shown.
All senior students agree that residents have a right to know how their money is spent but  most only give this information out on request.  Residents must therefore either ask directly about seeing the information or go along to a committee meeting.
However, there has so far been no move to make this information available to all students  within the University regardless of where they live, which could potentially make it easier for  students to compare committees’ spending and hold them up for any discrepancies.
Lauren Galt, the senior student for Albany Park, said that if halls were to make their financial information readily available to the entire student body, every hall would have to do this simultaneously.
“If it was just us who released the information I fear that it would leave us open to a bit too  much scrutiny that could be damaging to our hall life if it enabled people to control how we spend the money.  However, if all halls opted to release it then I would definitely be open to releasing it as well.
“Although I think it would be good to compare spending of the different hall committees,  it is  very apparent that different halls have different hall lives.  For example, we host two events a week and we do a lot of house parties, pre-drinks events and pizza nights which mean a lot of money gets spent on a regular basis, whereas other halls maybe don’t do the same frequency  of events but have an extravagant ball.
“Because of this I feel that it would actually be very difficult to compare the spending without  people assuming there is ‘one correct way’ to do it, which may potentially damage the social lifestyles of the different halls.”
The Saint’s investigation took place following Albany Park’s release of their financial statement for semester one.  Though the hall has previously made this financial information available to  residents on a yearly basis, they have now decided to release a statement at the end of each semester.
Ms Galt said: “Currently, the releasing of the finances is so Albany Park residents can see how  Albany Park’s money is being spent.  I think it’s more important for this to happen than for other halls to know how the money is being spent, and it is their business to share their own spending with their own residents.”
Réka Szeremley-Öhlin, the senior student at St Salvator’s Hall, said: “We are among other  things working for the benefit of the students and with respect to the fact that a portion of  their tuition fee is added to the hall subscription, I do believe that if a resident in the hall wishes to see the spreadsheet they are entitled to it,  just as they are welcomed and encouraged to come to our meetings, take part in debate and the raising of motions.”
The senior student for McIntosh Hall, Keith Cordrey, commented: “It hasn’t been done in the past partly because of us keeping records on paper rather than digitally but at present the
treasurer is transferring this years’ books into a spreadsheet that we intend to make available  to the residents of hall.”
Although each hall handles divulging financial information differently, the Union has recently  taken action to create a standardised spreadsheet for hall treasurers, ensuring that  accountancy is in some way the same across committees.  However, halls have been reluctant to take intervention from the Students’ Association any further.
Taylor Carey, the senior student for University Hall, said: “Hall committees find themselves in a difficult position with regards finance.  We have access to large amounts of money, which in any other setting would necessitate regular audit and oversight procedures by an independent arbiter.”
Mr Carey explained that previous meetings of the Senior Students’ Forum – comprising the  various senior students and two members of the SRC – has decided against giving either the Students’ Association or the University greater control or regulation over committee  spending.  This would, Mr Carey says, greatly diminish the committee’s usefulness and obligate them to meet unfair conditions such as “holding a quota of Hall events in the Union”.

“Consequently, we are considering an informal financial practice agreement signed by all hall  committees, the practicalities of which are still being worked out.  In the meantime,
financial disclosure and accessibility, combined with procedural safeguards (e.g. I cannot write a cheque without my fellow senior student co-signing), are, in our opinion, satisfactory.”
Halls’ money comes in part from the accommodation fees that students pay, and most halls receive a hall subsidy  from the University of £80 per student.  Ms Galt explained that this
money goes into “one big pot for the committee to manage, to enrich hall life ”.   Committees   can gain further money by winning grants through events such as the hall energy competition or for environmental projects such as Albany Park’s community garden.


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