Queer cultural center investigates missing money

A review found that some Queer Student Cultural Center funds may have been misused.

Queer cultural center investigates missing money

Anne Millerbernd

The University of Minnesota’s Queer Student Cultural Center is currently investigating potential mismanagement of thousands of dollars in group funds.

The group was one of several University student organizations to undergo financial evaluations by Deloitte and Touche LLP this winter.

The QSCC’s review revealed large discrepancies in its finances, and the group reported “potentially personal use of group funds,” according to Deloitte’s review documents.

Group members said a past QSCC treasurer embezzled money from the group’s bank account, said Benjamin Beutel, Student Services Fees Committee student groups chair.

The QSCC declined to comment because investigation of the potentially misused funds is ongoing.

Fees committee adviser Megan Sweet said QSCC members notified her that they suspected an issue with their funds last fall during an informational session between Deloitte and the student groups set to be reviewed.

In 2012, the QSCC asked then-University student Matt Pang to become its treasurer to help with financial issues.

“The reason I was brought on was because they had filed their taxes late,” he said. “And therefore, the group was in financial trouble.”

Pang said he brought in a legal consultant and an accountant to help reconcile lost records, file the group’s taxes and set up an accounting system.

After he left, he said, he tried contacting the QSCC’s next executive board to explain how to handle the group’s finances, but the members didn’t respond.

Despite the ongoing investigation, the QSCC was recommended about $49,000 in student services fees, close to the amount it received last year.

The fees committee discussed whether to cut more from the group’s more than $68,000 request, Beutel said, but it opted to not factor in the potential misuse of funds because it was an isolated incident. Because the QSCC has handled the issue well by making changes in its leadership and funding requests, Beutel said, fees funding wasn’t affected.

“We are not really in the business of punishing groups for the actions of individual members,” he said.

The committee investigated nearly half a dozen student groups for similar issues this year, Beutel said.

U-Finance President Steven Kislenko said groups don’t always have systems in place to assist them in fund management. One of the best methods for avoiding things like embezzlement, he said, is to have more than one person manage funds.

“Being able to kind of segregate the control of cash within your organization is absolutely important,” he said.

Sweet said she recommended that the QSCC file reports with both the police and the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, as well as try to reconcile any missing funds.

But Kislenko said it’s usually difficult, if not impossible, for groups to get back money they’ve lost.

Because student group leaders are often new to handling finances, Pang said, it can be a daunting process to keep track of thousands of dollars.

“Finals happen, homework happens … they forget about stuff, or they get overwhelmed,” he said. “And as a result, these small mistakes happen and tend to have very big consequences for the student group.”