Student Association members upset with high late fees

Students question charges following Feb. 8 SA senate meeting

phuong1
The Spectrum

Student Association coordinators were upset after the SA senate charged their clubs with “high” late fees at the Feb. 8 senate meeting.

The senate requested $1,800 in late fees from 12 clubs, according to SA’s proposed budget adjustments. Pakistani SA and Academic Bowl face late charges of $500 and $250 respectively for returning credit cards late, which the clubs borrowed from SA. Polish SA faces a $150 charge for losing an SA Wegmans card. Senators described the charges as unusually high compared to past charges and club members voiced their concerns after the meeting. 

SA has 147 clubs that can face a $50-per-day charge if they return borrowed SA credit cards late, as stated in the SA finance handbook. Clubs can borrow credit cards for Wegmans, Walmart, Home Depot and AC Moore and limits range from $3,000 to $5,000. The budget adjustments, including late charges, are proposed at the beginning of senate meetings for senators to review and vote to approve. This ensures all club charges are accounted for and justified. SA senators voted to pass the budget adjustments, despite the club coordinators’ discontent. Some senators said they felt “pressured” to vote to pass the budget adjustments.

Elise Helou, international council coordinator, said she believes the charges are “fair” and said Pakistani SA’s executive board accepted fault for not returning the card on time.

Brian Reagan, president of Academic Bowl, felt differently and said SA failed to properly notify the club of the charges. Reagan said SA only notified the club about the fees three months after the fact. 

“We never received any notification of the card being late,” Reagan said. “The clerk at the counter and the envelope it came in were supposed to inform us of the due date, but never did.”

Reagan said, although the policy is in the SA handbook, he doesn’t feel the allotted time is sufficient for clubs to return borrowed cards. He said e-board members often have classes that interfere with the return policy, as cards must be returned by 12 p.m. This forces clubs to deal with late charges that “quickly rack up to be devastating,” Reagan said. 

SA Senator Omran Omar described the late fees as “predatory” and feels the charges may be a “bad policy” that carried over from past years. 

SA Treasurer Tanahiry Escamilla said the senate approved the late fee policy before the academic year began. SA uses the funds to pay off any additional fees from the unpaid credit cards, according to Escamilla. She said SA cannot pay off credit card bills until clubs turn in the card and receipts.

Reagan said he thinks SA staff should better notify clubs of deadlines and policies. 

Escamilla said “a lot goes into consideration” in implementing new policies and said the rule cannot be changed mid-semester. She also said she understands that “sometimes the impossible happens,” and e-board members may not be able to return cards on time. 

Escamilla said clubs have notified her of family emergencies and one person locked their keys in a car with an SA credit card inside. In extenuating circumstances such as these, SA will override the fees. 

“As long as they just mention it and are able to provide evidence that something happened, I'm more than happy to be considerate,” Escamilla said. “Life happens, [the late fees are] more for clubs that just aren't being responsible with what the policies are.”

Daniel Connolly, SA hobby coordinator, said he thinks the fees affect clubs “disproportionately.”

“I believe that it would be best if next year's SA finance handbook handled this issue in a different way so that clubs with one negligent e-board member don't suffer as much if that member doesn’t hand in their card on time,” Connolly said.

Maximilian Kapitonoff, vice president of photo club said their previous treasurer neglected to return a borrowed card in the fall semester. 

Kapitonoff said SA notified photo club of the charges on Feb. 8, roughly two months after its Dec. 3 due date. SA still hasn’t charged them or notified them of the amount.

“SA has done more to detract from our club’s growth rather than to foster it,” Kapitonoff said. “We haven't been clearly informed on how much they're charging us … since it takes forever, like everything SA does … [but] even the one day fee is a large portion of our budget.”

Escamilla appoints a finance committee that decides the budget and the fees. She announced next year’s committee at the last meeting. Seven people applied for positions on the six-person committee, according to Escamilla. 

SA Senator Omran Omar said he believes the finance committee should reconsider the policy on fees, and advised senators to vote carefully on the budget adjustments. 

“Senators really need to work together in the future,” Omar said. “Oftentimes we see ourselves being persuaded or lectured to vote a certain way.”

Connolly said “the policy in place was being enforced the way it was supposed to be,” but next year’s finance committee should reconsider the policy.

“It’s in the handbook, stated as a rule pretty clearly,” Connolly said. “I think the question is just whether or not there might be a better way in the future to approach dealing with this issue.”

Jacklyn Walters is a Co-senior News Editor and can be reached at jacklyn.walters@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @JacklynUBSpec.

Data courtesy of Tanahiry Escamilla.