MathNEWS, the anything-goes publication by and for UW’s math students, is running low on funds after three terms without receiving their funding — and that funding remains in limbo in a struggle between Feds oversight and student votes.
The funding, generated from a $3.00 fee within the Math Society’s $10.00 per term per student fee, can only be released with a valid Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU is an agreement between MathNEWS and Math Society (MathSoc) that outlines their roles and responsibilities to each other.
Each MOU expires after three years, the last one having ended in 2016. Though a new MOU has been approved at the Math Society AGM, the Math Society is seeking approval from Feds for MathNEWS use of funds in what has become a year-long process, according to Feds accountant Gurpreet Saini.
Saini oversees the student societies’ accounts on behalf of Feds, including MathSoc.
“Feds didn’t even get a chance to review this MOU,” Saini said in an email exchange between MathNEWS and MathSoc, pertaining to the subject of MathNews’ funding. “Math Soc cannot sign on our behalf. Therefore, I don’t believe, it is legally binding.”
However, in the e-mail exchange between MathNEWS, MathSoc, and Saini, how much control student organizations have over their budgets are unclear.
Saini wrote, “Feds has no say in the MOU. This is something for Math Soc” but also wrote, “In my opinion, I don’t think this money is spent well for math students.” Saini also pushed for MathNews adopting an online “Daily Bulletin” format.
Saini also declared that a meeting between Feds and MathSoc would be to “have MathNEWS operate as a Math Soc club instead of a separate unit with [a] separate bank account.”
“I actually got concerned when I heard that the motion to approve the MathNEWS MOU was voted [in] by students in the [math] General Meeting,” she wrote. “I thought this would be a council issue to handle … not based on a vote of students.”
Zishen Qu, editor for MathNEWS, said Saini claimed the organization’s budget “was spent inappropriately,” referring to their end of term events as an example.
“I completely disagree,” said Qu. “This amount is not that many thousand dollars, and there’s about 2,000 hours of work every year for MathNEWS to [be] produced. That’s a really small amount of compensation for the hard work of writers and artists.”
MathSoc requested that “the discussion of the merit of MathNEWS and justification in particular of its paper form not be part of the discussion” of a proposed meeting with Saini and Feds representatives.
“It may be that the Math Faculty student body needs to have a discussion … but that is for Math Faculty students to decide.”
Feds provided an email statement on how student fees are administered in UW.
“The University collects student fees, which they then administer to Feds, who then administers funds to Societies,” the statement said.
Student societies’ accounts are also overseen by a Feds accountant, and according to the email exchange between Saini, MathNEWS and MathSoc, it appears that Feds wants to keep all signing authority, and therefore control of funds, limited to societies through these accounts.
MathNEWS currently has its own bank account and makes its own budget decisions, as it has since its beginning.
Qu said, “The official student publication for the undergraduate students in mathematics should not be directly controlled by the society that governs the undergraduate students in mathematics.”
MathSoc did not wish to comment, citing legal issues. They added that “discussion with MathNEWS and other relevant parties are being made to resolve the issue.”
According to Qu and Feds, Feds has since offered a formal apology to MathNEWS for Saini’s remarks.
“These comments are not reflective of the Societies Accountant’s role nor Feds’ approach to relationships with Societies,” Feds said in a written statement. “Feds VPIN and VPOF met with MathNews and MathSoc on Monday, November 27 to apologize for the inappropriate communications from Feds and address these issues. Concerns regarding the role of Feds’ Societies Accountant are being handled internally.”
Feds also provided some clarifications pertaining to some of the comments made in Saini’s emails in their email statement.
“Feds does not hold any signing authority for Societies’ bank accounts. Each individual Society has their own signing authorities,” Feds said in terms of Societies’ signing authority for bank accounts.
The statement provided by Feds also indicated that an approval by Feds is not needed for an MOU that does not have the involvement of Feds.
“Feds is not a signing party on this MOU. The only oversight provided by Feds is to verify that the MOU does not violate any policies; we do not examine context or intervene beyond that,” the statement said.
Feds also emphasized that independent bank accounts would not be eliminated. “Bank accounts belonging to clubs, services, and Societies have been and continue to be transitioned under the same financial institution to ensure proper oversight, improve efficiencies, and streamline the process of signing authorities for student groups such as Societies,” the statement said.
Feds also said that MathNEWS is covered under their liability insurance policy, which apparently coincides with the Feds/Societies Agreement under section 4a. i).
“Feds’ oversight processes are in place to ensure that Feds’ student groups adhere to Canada Revenue Agency requirements and to cover members of Societies under our liability insurance policy,” the statement said.
Feature photo above by Dilveer Virk
This article has been updated with Feds’ emailed statements pertaining to clarifications about student fees, Feds’ control over Societies’ accounts, and comments made by Feds accountant Gurpreet Saini in the email exchange between MathNEWS, MathSoc, and herself.
After the story was published with all the email images, Imprint was notified that the images might contain private email addresses. After verifying that all emails are publicly available, Imprint reloaded the images. It came to Imprint’s attention that Image 5 of the thread had been missing and has been reloaded as of Nov. 29, 2017.