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Show Me the Money!Students Want Refund of Students' Association Fee
  • Kim Sung-ho, Editor-in-Chief
  • 승인 2005.03.17 12:18
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 "Next."
  "Here you are."
  "Hum... Let's check, you have to pay more."
  "Come again? You mean I didn't pay all? I definitely gave you the notified money."
  "Yes, you did, but you have to pay another bill. Can you see another paper beside the registration fee bill? That's the students' association fee."
  "Do I have to pay the fee? Why should I pay this money?"
  Most students might have this same question. Although the students' association fee is a matter of primary concern in Dongguk University (DU), no one knows the exact reason for it. The Dongguk Post decided to investigate................................................................Ed.

  Most companies have their own autonomous employee associations. Likewise, a university has autonomous students association. If you enter DU, you become a member of the students' union and have to pay a membership fee. The existing enrollment system doesn't allow one to refuse payment of the fee. This is how the association's budget is collected. The General Representatives Council (GRC) submits a planning paper, and then Finance Accounting gives the money to the GRC. The School Authority (SA)'s role is only to deliver, and they don't engage in the next process. The GRC distributes the money to each organization according to budget bills. And the General Student Council (GSC) redistributes the money to each college. These funds are used to hold various events and to buy products for student welfare. For example, last year the GSC used the collected fees, about 7~8%, to hold elections, to have two festivals and orientations, more than 50%, and so forth. At the end of every semester, the GRC inspects bills of expenditure from each college.
  In recent years, some doubt and discontent have been aroused among students concerning the use of funds and the inspection process.
  There are many problems related with the students' association fee: payment, distribution, inspection and use.
  We cannot help paying the students' association fee because it is included with the registration fee every semester. The SA demands that school expenses and the students' association fee be paid at the same time. If we don't pay these fees, we can't enroll.
  On My Opinion, a web bulletin for Donggukians, some students have criticized the current system and demand a refund. According to the Post's poll, 64% of students want to change the current payment system. They want to change from combined payment to separated payments. In addition, the Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development pointed out that this combined system is illegal and demand that it be amended.
  "At first, we considered changing this system, because of student complaints. However, we worried that nobody pay the students' association fee if it were separate," said Baek Seung-kyu, the chief clerk in Student Affairs.
  To know how the funds used, the colleges and the GSC are inspected by the GRC at the end of every semester. But last year, some colleges didn't prepare well, so they were ordered to stop giving the money for a few weeks or warned. For example, during the audit, the GSC, College of Information & Industrial Science and College of Arts couldn't provide proper information for two weeks because the submitted documents were not in order. And the Circle Union and College of Natural Science were stopped as well for four weeks  because of unreliable execution and inefficient management.
  "A department's usage is not always accurate. To tell the truth, I wasn't fully aware where and how much money we spent, even if my role is the to accountant of this department's funds. At the end of every semester, we try to find the shortage of money in the account book and then fill the shortage in the blank receipts just before inspection. I'd like to operate it cleanly, but it was hard to be exact and took so much time," said a student who is in charge of money managing at a department. These kinds of problems occur with the major councils and colleges as well.
  There are, however, problems with the audit system. According to the GSC regulations, the GRC is completely independent from the GSC. Some members of the present ad-hoc committee point out that such a system lessens the audit's efficiency.
  "The GRC should prepare for the audit. But they don't. Even though, the council has made up an ad-hoc system, they don't carry out their role or audit loosely. We are aware of the faults to the system. We are examining a new alternative system," said Jung Hyeng-joo, Chief of the College of Natural Science.
  But a more essential part is to make public the results of the inspection. Literally, the students' association fee is student money, so they have a right to know how the fee is used. Wall-posters, written by the GSC, often were put up to inform students, but the college didn't do it. So most students didn't know the results, and then they distrusted the information about the money in My Opinion.
  Since last semester, the students' association has been administered by the ad hoc committee. But the ad hoc committee isn't regarded as equal to the GSC, and they don't have any authority. In principal, the ad hoc committee couldn't use the students' association fee.
  "True, we don't have the right to use that money. But we spend the money, because we have to prepare for important events like "Dae-dongjae" festival in May and "Dong-yunjae" circle festival in September or October. To get a justification for spending the money, we hold a meeting of the Students' Representatives Assembly. Even though students want more investment for their welfare, we can't afford it, because the formalities to pass a spending bill are very complicated. Whenever we plan an event or a measure, we have to assemble the representatives. This is because we are an ad hoc committee," said Koo Bon-hun, the head of the GSC's Ad-hoc Committee.
 According to The Post's survey, 72% of Donggukians  want the students' association fee refunded. And half of them said they don't trust how the GSC uses the fee. We expect that at least 36% of students distrust the GSC. Voices demanding separating school expenses with students' association fee reached 64%. But most universities don't collect students' association fee separately. Since this system is illegal, why do they adhere to combined payment?
  The GSC of the University of Seoul (UOS), collects the students' association fee separately. This system offers students voluntary participation. But there are some drawbacks.
  "As a matter of fact, students are not so affirmative. Our students' association fee is relatively less than at other schools. Therefore, the GSC at UOS can't promote many activities," a staff of the GSC at UOS said. He also criticized the SA's dawdling. Even if they collect separate fees, the written notices of the students' association fee are printed by the SA. If the SA delays nothing can be done about it. This has happened in the past.
  Even though most Donggukians want separate collection, there are many difficulties. The accounting division of DU considered it, but they also faced such problems. Then, cannot we but accepting the illegal combined payment?
  "At the University of Western Ontario in Canada, I hadn't paid students' association fee at a time. In Canada, the concept of the fee differs widely. Of course, they also raise funds for activities, but the funds collected while a new activity is in progress, by students who want to participate in it. If they hold a big activity, they would open a bazaar to raise funds," a student who studied in Canada said. In order to gather for money each activity, their student council plans for fund strictly and they spend the funds only for the event. And the end of the event, they open their accounting books for scrutiny. Therefore, there is no cause for doubt about how the funds, are spend, and students' trust the council.
  The most important matter is the students' association fee's audit. Ewha Women's University has audited its students' association fee at the school's accounting administration. They were relatively strict, but a students' association fee incident happened some times ago. So the student council of Ewha is going to audit by official accountant this time. By using official accountant, the audit is expected to be more trustworthy.
  Korea University (KU) is preparing a new system, "The Audit Committee System (ACS)." At the time of auditing, they will organize a committee only for auditing. Then the audit ends, the audit will be disbanded. DU's GSC considers to introduce this system, and 59% of Donggukians' think it will be more proper than existing system.
  According to the poll, Donggkians want the ACS to participate various constituents. KU plans to form the committee by members related to the GSC. But there is concern that friendship between the GSC members and the GRC members will interfere with the audit's neutrality. Hence, if we introduce a new audit system, its members should included to various constituents: common students (who are not related to the GSC), the staff of the GRC, and so on. After the audit, the results must be made public, through Not only in the DU Press and on wall-posters but also in the school webpage and E-mail.
  What is remarkable is that 99% of students want to enlarge the budget for students' welfare. While, the students want to decrease the costs of elections and social activities. Yonsei University (YU)'s GSC enlarged the budget for student welfare, and will not use the funds for social activities. They also plan to diminish costs for election. For example, Yonsei's GSC started to lend bicycles for free. And they are going to introduce cyber-election via their school's webpage.
  But YU didn't prepare to formal channels to hear students' demands. We need to consider student welfare prior to others. In addition, we should set up formal public channels to hear what students' think.

Conclusion
  As you can see, the audit system of the students' association fee has many defects. Moreover, most Donggukians want the weak points in this system corrected. According to the poll, 81% of Donggukians want the audit system changed. It's time for the GSC to reform their inspection system.
  The SA should pay close attention to the money. Of course, the students' association fee's users are the students. The SA should not infringe but advise the GSC on how to draw up the budget effectively by strengthening the budget proposal standards. The SA has another problem that awaits a solution. That is, how to collect the students' association fee separate from with the enrollment fee. Most students want to pay the money of their own free will. After studying other universities' methods, the SA should find alternative measures and adopt a separate payment policy.
  Payment is a duty and inspection is a right. You get the right when you pay the bill. To end distrust, students should be concerned about the money and the GSC's policy. If you stay concern, they will have to act responsibly.
  The staffs of the GSC should change their attitude about using the money. Major staffs of the GSC are likely to fall easily into a fallacy that the collected money is their own. The GSC should be more responsible and open its accounting procedure to student inspection.

The results of the audit for the first half 2004

The range of reprimands
- Not reprimanded good evaluation
-Light warning
-Warning
-Strong warning
-Two-week budget stop
-Four-week budget stop

College or committee
-Committee of DU magazine,  Student Welfare
-College of Liberal Art, College of Life Resources Science, College of Education
-The Preparing Committee for Graduation, College of Law, College of Engineering
-College of Economics & Commerce, College of Social Science, College of Buddhist Studies
-The General Student Council, College of Information & Industrial Science, College of Arts
-The Circle Union, College of  Natural Science

The reason of reprimand
-
-Delay of audit, Lack of submitted data
-Violated scheduled time, Some of audit data not presented, Lost receipts
-Some of audit data not presented, Lack of audit data, Unprofessional behavior, Audited people didn't participate in audit
-Errors in using the budget, Ineffective and loose execution of budget

 

Poll

1. Do you want to refund students' association fee?
1) Yes (72%)  2) No (28%)

2. Why do you want to refund it?
1) I don't trust its use. (51%)
2) I don't agree with the GSC's activities. (23%)
3) The Ad-hoc Committee has no claim to use the funds. (8%)
4) The sum of the money is unreasonable. (8%)
5) Others (10%)

3. Which audit system is more desirable?
1) The present system (15%)
2) The Audit Committee (59%)
3) The official accountant (22%)
4) Others (4%)

4. Which collecting money system is more desirable?
1) The present system (34%)
2) The separate collecting (64%)
3) Others (2%)

5. Where should the students' association fee be used ?
A. Student Welfare Section
1) Expansion (99%)
2) Reduction (1%)
B. Student Activity Section
1) Expansion (76%)
2) Reduction (24%)
C. Social Activity Section
1) Expansion (44%)
2) Reduction (56%)
D. Election Section
1) Expansion (17%)
2) Reduction (83%)
E. College and Circle Supporting Section
1) Expansion (83%)
2) Reduction (17%)

Kim Sung-ho, Editor-in-Chief  kimyang@dongguk.edu

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