University at Buffalo officials are moving aggressively in ending SBI's role in campus affairs after 49 years. The student-run corporation has served as the fiscal agent for millions of dollars in mandatory student activity fees. Last week, the university demanded SBI relinquish all student government accounts and transfer the funds directly to the university.
According to Jennifer Schechter, President of SBI, UB is demanding the funds be transferred immediately. If not, the university is threatening "legal action against SBI." She says the university wants SBI off the campus by July 1.
University officials announced on May 6 that SBI could no longer serve as the fiscal agent and that FSA (Faculty Student Association) would be handling those duties. The decision emerged from the findings of an administrative review committee. The move caught the leaders of SBI and student government by surprise. A small rally protesting the decision took place the following week.
A request from WBFO seeking an interview with university officials was denied Friday. A statement was issued:
“The university is moving ahead with a transition that complies with SUNY system rules for contracting a fiscal agent for student associations. This transition is in the best interest of our students and complies with SUNY and state requirements,” the statement concluded.
Hours of interviews with students and campus observers raised several issues regarding the process and final decision:
Transparency. The decision emerged from the findings of an administrative review committee, student leaders were told. However, a full report of those findings has not been provided. University officials outlined their case during sessions on May 6. More than one person attending described it as a PowerPoint presentation.
Shared Governance. Shared Governance represents a collaboration between administration, staff, faculty and students in dealing with university concerns. A search of UB's website turns up numerous references to the term, including the recognition of "Shared Governance Day."
No students or faculty members were on the administrative review committee which determined the fate of SBI as fiscal agent. All members were administrators holding titles which implied expertise on the complexities of fiscal control and compliance.
Timing. While the administrative review began last winter, its findings weren't released until May 6. The date coincided with much of the student body focusing on final exams, graduation and clearing out of housing.
University officials have pointed out how SBI's status as fiscal agent simply did not comply with state and SUNY regulations. Schechter, the SBI President, points out the university had conducted an internal audit of her organization in 2017-2018. If SBI was not in compliance, why wasn't it revealed during the audit?
WBFO's Thomas O'Neil-White's coverage contributed to this story. Also, Jacklyn Walters and Tanveen Vohra of The Spectrum took time during finals week and their extensive reporting to provide details and background for this story.