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MU group responds to finance inquiry

A dispute between the university and a student group has grown after an article in a student newspaper.
Monday, October 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:44 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Two days past its deadline, the Legion of Black Collegians, one of three student governments at MU, responded to a university demand for financial information.

Legion vice president Travis Gregory said Sunday that the most recent records for an off-campus bank account — which violates university policy — were given late Friday afternoon to the Department of Student Life.

Student Life director Mark Lucas, however, said Sunday that the records had not been delivered by the time he left the office about 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Turnover of bank statements is the latest in a dispute between the legion and Student Life. The matter ballooned on campus last week when the Maneater, a student newspaper, ran a story suggesting that the group had taken thousands of dollars left over from last year and moved it to its off-campus account.

“There’s this idea out there that the rollover in regards to the LBC budget has made its way to our outside account, which is impossible,” Gregory said.

Student governments are required to have accounts run solely through the university because their money comes directly from student fees and Student Life watches how that money is used. Student fees are money students pay each semester toward things other than tuition, room and board.

Gregory said that the legion has had the account at Missouri Student Credit Union since 1997 and that its most recent statement listed an $18 balance. The checking account was used for miscellaneous purchases, such as thank-you cards and gas for group traveling, he said. Gregory said the money in it, which did not exceed $120, came from fundraisers.

The request to look at student government finances is not unusual, Lucas said.

“We do this all the time. The rules say clearly that we’re allowed to do this, and they’re not cooperating,” he said, referring to the legion.

Lucas said he sent an e-mail to the group on Sept. 23 and gave it until this past Wednesday to turn in bank statements and answer how it got the money, where the money came from and what it was used for. The group did not comply.

Lucas said that at that point, his office wasn’t sure how to proceed.

“We’ve never had someone not comply with what we’ve asked them to do,” he said.

The legion didn’t want to comply because it said the university never gave it formal notification that it was breaking a rule, Gregory said. Student Life couldn’t know for sure that the legion was in violation until it got the information it wanted, Lucas said.

Moreover, he said, they did not need official notification of a potential violation to comply with a demand for records, he said.

It was unclear Sunday whether the group had fully complied with Student Life’s request.

The legion is the official black student government at MU. Its written mission is “to be the leading black voice on campus by eradicating ignorance and promoting positive change through education, motivation and advocacy for black students at Mizzou.”

The Department of Student Life oversees MU’s three student governments — the legion, the Graduate Professional Council and the Missouri Students Association — and 430 student organizations.

MU students fund all of these groups. This semester, an undergraduate paid $8.27 per credit hour up to 12 hours, or $99.25 total for more than 12 hours. Entities that receive student fees include student governments, student organizations, parking garages, capital improvements and student unions.

This year, the student governments received $943,400 directly from student fees, according to the Registrar’s Office. The Legion of Black Collegians got $27,306; the Graduate Professional Council got $80,584; and the Missouri Students Association, the dominant student government, got $754,926 plus another $80,584 from the council.

Lucas said that over the years there have only been a few significant errors in judgment with student organizations. A bigger lapse came up in the spring when a slush fund was discovered at the campus radio station, KCOU-FM, which is part of the Missouri Students Association.

But the student governments usually have only minor problems, Lucas said.

Gregory said a sore point in the Maneater’s coverage was the implication that the legion had used student fees for community service, which is against MU rules.

“We don’t use our budget to perform those community service projects, whether it’s going to the Ronald McDonald House or the food bank,” Gregory said.

The legion responded with a full-page advertisement in the Maneater, asking the student body to not “believe everything you read.” In the same issue, editor-in-chief Jenna Youngs said the paper stands by its reporting.

Gregory said that he is happy, overall, with the reactions of the student body.

“They understand that a lot of this is a misunderstanding and can all be cleared up by a clear, honest explanation,” he said.

He and legion President Meggan Marberry hope to meet with everyone involved next week and resolve the matter.


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