GAPSA addresses missing money

The graduate student government is being investigated for an alleged $93,000 discrepancy.

Blair Emerson

Tensions regarding the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s financials came to a head at its final meeting of the academic year Wednesday night.

The assembly passed a resolution demanding that its president and vice president of finance answer all questions regarding an alleged $93,000 funding discrepancy, which has spurred an investigation of the assembly’s finances by University of Minnesota administrators.

During this year’s student services fees cycle, GAPSA’s leadership didn’t answer the committee’s questions fast enough, which led to its request being slashed.

GAPSA allegedly has about $93,000 unaccounted for in its financial records, according to a letter to GAPSA sent by Vice Provost and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young.

In the letter, she called for a full investigation of GAPSA’s finances and withheld all of its student services fees funding until the investigation is completed. The Office for Student Affairs will conduct the investigation in the next few months, but neither Brown Young nor a University spokesman would provide further details.

GAPSA Vice President of Finance Kevin Lang, who’s responsible for drafting the group’s budget requests, said he has responded to Brown Young’s request for an explanation for the alleged missing money and supporting financial documents.

Lang admitted he made a mistake in his bookkeeping that resulted in $42,000 going unaccounted for in GAPSA’s finances for the 2012-13 budget cycle.

However, he said all of GAPSA’s incoming and outgoing money for the past two years is accounted for; there was simply an error in the budget.

Lang studied microbiology, and both he and GAPSA President-elect Alfonso Sintjago said Lang may not be sufficiently qualified to manage such large sums of money. GAPSA received more than $390,000 in student services fees this academic year.

“It’s OK to make mistakes as long as no money is stolen,” Sintjago said. “I just want [Lang] to explain what happened.”

GAPSA adviser Merrie Benasutti said she doesn’t believe the investigation will find any intentional wrongdoing.

“I think that sometimes people make mistakes,” she said.

GAPSA’s current budget runs through August, so any withheld student services fees won’t affect the assembly unless the investigation carries into the fall. The assembly tried but failed to pass a budget for the next academic year Wednesday night without Lang or outgoing president Brittany Edwards in attendance. GAPSA’s executive board will vote on an operational budget this summer, and the entire assembly will vote on its overall budget in September.

The group received about $232,000 of its $392,000 fees request for the 2014-15 academic year. This includes a 35 percent cut to its request for failing to comply with Student Services Fees Committee deadlines.

Sintjago said this cut won’t affect pass-through funding to its member councils next year, but GAPSA will consider reducing its grant and programming expenses next year.

“Some councils rely on that money for their own programming,” Sintjago said, “It’s an essential part of GAPSA.”