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Student Groups To Get Credit Cards

By Joshua P. Rogers, Crimson Staff Writer

The College will now allow student organizations to receive debit cards associated with their Harvard bank accounts, reversing an earlier decision to prohibit the use of the cards.

Following protests from Undergraduate Council leaders, the College retreated from the ban, which had accompanied a requirement that all student groups shift their bank accounts to the Harvard University Employee Credit Union (HUECU) by Oct. 25.

Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd and Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II said yesterday they reversed the decision because student groups need to order supplies in bulk and online—an action that requires a credit or debit card.

Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 said that University Hall realized that students should not be forced to carry debts for their groups and wait for reimbursement.

“It’s unreasonable to expect students to carry that burden and students might have to carry the debt for weeks and months,” Mahan said.

McLoughlin said that the debit cards will be issued to the president of the group and will only be valid for one academic year. In addition, groups that wish to use the debit card service will be assessed a $5 annual fee.

While groups that embark on world tours, such as the Harvard Din and Tonics, find debit cards very useful, the cards are not appropriate for all groups, Kidd said.

“We would like to cut down on ATM usage,” Kidd said.

When the debit restriction was imposed this summer, McLoughlin said the dean’s office wanted to increase accountability and limit the chances for student fraud. The College also now requires both the president and treasurer of a group to sign off on checks, a decision that still stands.

The dual signature restrictions were enacted in hopes of preventing incidents similar to the 2001 Hasty Pudding Theatrical scandal, when two students stole thousands of dollars from the organization, Kidd said.

Under the new debit card system, only the president of the organization can use the card and the treasurer must review the group’s monthly statement, McLoughlin said.

“I think it’s a crucial component of this to require treasurers to attend a training session,” Mahan said of a mandatory training program the College will run.

But Mahan said that the University must be careful not to take too much of a paternal role in increasing financial responsibility for student group leaders.

“At the end of the day, the groups need to learn how to manage their money and enforce their rules,” Mahan said.

The College is also taking action to speed the transferring of money intended for groups from University gift accounts, Kidd and McLoughlin said yesterday. Gift accounts allow alums to give money to Harvard and earmark it for a certain student group.

While previously the College would write a check to the group, and an officer would have to pick up the check at University Hall, the College will now transfer the money directly into HUECU accounts.

In August, Mahan cited the two-week lag in transferring money from the gift accounts to student group accounts as one of the reasons that the council bounced 95 checks—and wasted $1,873 in overdraft fees—last spring and summer.

Although the deadline for moving the student group accounts to HUECU is Oct. 25, both Kidd and McLoughlin said that many of the groups have already made the switch—including some groups for which the switch is optional. These groups have their own 501c3 tax-exempt status, which means they are an independent nonprofit organization.

—Staff writer Joshua P. Rogers can be reached at jprogers@fas.harvard.edu

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