Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

SAF history, 2001-2004: corruption and mismanagement

Published: January 27, 2006
Section: News

In a multi-part series, The Hoot examines some issues that have led to an outcry for change in the way the Student Activities Fee (SAF) is managed. In Part 1, last semester, The Hoot examined the historical growth of the SAF, of which the current system is an outgrowth. In Part 2, The Hoot recounts significant events from the last five years that have lead to the cries for change.

Editors Note: Here are The Financial Audit and The Financial Review referenced in this article.

As part of a major overhaul of the Student Union Constitution in 1998, a clause was written which required an extensive financial review within several years. This clause was written in because the students responsible for proposing the new constitution realized that the process for dividing and allocating money within the student Union had stayed roughly the same for over 30 years, while the amount increased from under $50,000 to almost $750,000.

In 2001, Ron Goldstein 89 volunteered to work with then-Union President Josh Peck 01 and other members of his Executive Board (E-board) to conduct such a review. After Peck graduated, the responsibility fell to the next Union President Ben Brandzel 02 and his E-board.

After the results were released in 2002, it was learned that the review brought to light possible criminal mismanagement of Union funds by a former treasurer, and possible violations of laws for non-profit organizations by the Student Union in its handling of funds. These revelations prompted an audit by the office of Jean Eddy, Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment. Then-Assistant Vice President for Students and Enrollment Brian Walton completed the audit.

Bad Apples
The audit concluded that a former treasurer pocketed at least $2,400 of Union funds. This information was kept secret from the Union for over eight months until this reporter learned of them and asked the then-Union Treasurer and future President Josh Brandfon 05 for comment regarding the discovery for a Justice article titled Former treasurer mishandled funds, Jan. 28, 2003. Editors Note: Although the name of this treasurer is known, The Hoot chooses not to print it.

The threat of a Justice article on the issue prompted an emergency e-board meeting at which the e-board decided to reveal to the Union Senate these findings. In a marathon four hour executive session, the senate was told of these findings. Many senators berated President Brandzel and his e-board for keeping the results a secret for so long.

According to Brandzel, after he confronted this former treasurer she confessed and wired back the missing $2,400 in a matter of days. It is alleged that this treasurer at one point withdrew $500 at a shopping mall in Florida using a Union ATM card. No one discovered this, the audit said, due to a lack of supervision in the finance process. The audit also revealed that another $1,900 was also unaccounted for. It is unclear if this money was ever returned.

$121,000 saved, is $121,000 earned
In 2002 it was also revealed that there was a bank account in the Unions name with $121,000 in it. This money was later dubbed the Rollover Fund.

For the last several years, apparently, and we dont know for how long and we dont know exactly from what sources, money hasnt been spent at the end of the year either because it was allocated to a club and not spent or because it was not allocated at the end of the year, Brandzel told The Justice in a September 9, 2004 article titled Over 100k found in Senate account.

The financial review revealed that there was no system in place to deal with money left over at the end of the year and it was left sitting in this account. Most of the money had come from Allocation Boards of the past several years and some of it came from the e-board and the Senate. Secured Allocations Fund clubs, such as the Justice, WBRS and Archon, had their own bank accounts and did not contribute to this fund. Since the money in this account remained at the end of the year for tax purposes, it could have been viewed as profit and thus endanger Brandeis standing as a non-profit organization.

After the funds discovery, a process was put in place to spend the money. Students were invited to submit proposals on how to best use the money. Among the proposals submitted, the most popular were the revamping of the Game Room (then known as The Corner Pocket), which at that time only contained several ping pong and pool tables, the building of a climbing wall in Gosman Gym, the creation of a Peace Monument, the purchasing of an Ambulance for BEMCo, and the establishment of a rainy day fund for the Union.

Some of the proposals were found to be unrealistic (like the purchasing of an ambulance), while others were found to have potential legal problems (like the rainy day fund). In the end, through what some students alleged as a process heavily influenced by some administrators, the student body held a vote to decide between building a climbing wall and rebuilding the Game Room in Usdan. The Game Room, then named The Nest, won, receiving roughly 56 percent of the vote.

Next week: More about past finance malfeasance, and Union attempts at finance reform.