Sub-Board I asks the Faculty- Student Association to transfer $1.5 million back to students
SBI says money belongs to students, came from purchase made with student fees
Sub-board I, the nonprofit auxiliary organization responsible for managing student fees on behalf of student governments is asking the Faculty-Student Association to release a $1.5 million asset back into the hands of students.
The FSA, which does business as Campus Dining & Shops, is an auxiliary organization comprised of students, faculty, administrators and community business members that oversees dining services and shops on campus.
SBI Treasurer Kyle Murphy made the case to the FSA board of directors on Monday that the asset in question belongs to students and should be transferred back to SBI as the university’s fiscal agent for student fees.
At issue is a decades-old battle between the two organizations over whether or not profits from a land sale that SBI records indicate was made with student fees, should be transferred back to SBI.
SBI records show that in 1964 the FSA –– at the time, the sole agent on campus for managing university funds –– used student activity fees to purchase land for student recreational use. There were plans to build a golf course for faculty and students, but the land was never developed and was later sold in 1987.
Since then, the FSA has maintained control over the principal investment, despite protests from SBI members that the money should be in students’ control now that there exists an organization who oversees student funds. The money is listed as a restricted asset on the FSA’s books.
Murphy and other SBI board members, including current Student Association president and treasurer Leslie Veloz and Janet Austin, and Graduate Student Association president Tanja Aho, argue that although the FSA was the fiscal agent for student activity fees in 1964, this status does not allow them to hold onto student activity fees in perpetuity, since in 1971 students demanded the power to control their own money, and SBI formed as principal agent for managing student funds for the university.
As president, Veloz also served ex-officio as board member on the FSA. Veloz was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.
“Student activity fees ultimately belong to students, not the organization that holds them,” Murphy said. “Upon receipt of the land sale proceeds in 1987, the FSA should have delivered the students’ funds to the current fiscal agent, SBI.”
FSA board members at Monday’s meeting said they are open to discussion, but many seemed unmoved by Murphy’s argument.
Some mentioned there is no way to know how much of the investment came from student fees.
Dan Zimmer, vice president for corporate finance and development at food service and hospitality company Delaware North, serves as one of the FSA’s independent directors. Zimmer was among the most vocal critics of Murphy’s proposal Monday.
“Why would you ask for an asset that belongs to the Faculty-Student Association?”
Zimmer said. “Whether some of [the investment] or all of it came from student activity fees of some kind, to the extent that they are owned by the FSA, they are owned by the FSA. I don’t understand the rationale of someone coming in after the fact, restricted or not and saying, ‘Jeeze, I’d like to claim these now.’”
Murphy said he also believes the FSA could be in violation of SUNY guidelines if it maintains control over an asset that came out of an investment in student fees, something that Murphy said Jeff Brady, executive director for CDS, confirmed on two separate occasions.
When asked to verify for the board what he previously told Murphy, Brady qualified his statement saying the land sale purchase was comprised of “some” student fees.
Laura Hubbard, the university’s vice president for finance and administration, told Murphy the board would have to answer a “lot of questions” from its perspective before agreeing to transfer the money.
Murphy agreed, and said that the purpose of the meeting was to open up the discussion between the two organizations.
After the meeting, Murphy said he felt disappointed by the board’s reaction, but not surprised.
“I mean, it is $1.5 million,” Murphy said.
He said he hopes SBI will continue to fight for the transfer back to students.
“The average UB student on campus should be angry about this,” Murphy said. “It’s difficult because this is a thirty-year-long issue. This isn’t parking; this isn’t something you can easily be angry about because you see it every day. But we have to continue to improve the services. We help students in so many ways the university couldn’t and wouldn’t ever provide.”
Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @crowleyspectrum.