By: Kayla Allen, Staff Writer
Courtesy of HUSA Senate Instagram
The Howard University Student Association (HUSA) Senate issued a statement saying that the body was currently contesting a $20,000 deficit against the university in a press release to the Howard community on Oct. 5.
According to the press release, “The Senate was informed by Campus Life that it would not be able to disperse money to students until the deficit was paid in full and that the Senate would have to wait until the 2021 fall activity fee became available.”
This issue is particularly sensitive because the HUSA Senate provides a significant source of funding for student organizations. A portion of the Student Activities Fee that students pay into every semester goes to the HUSA Senate and allows them to help student organizations fund events on campus.
“Student organizations are an integral part of the Howard University experience,” said HUSA Senate Parliamentarian Nya Christian in a tweet Tuesday night. “Students pay a student activity fee with the expectation that it will go to student activities. The student body needs full transparency and a solution to this issue,” Christian continued.
The conflict has been ongoing since June of this year. HUSA Senate has proposed an alternative three-year payment plan as a solution to the deficit, but was reportedly denied by the university.
Amidst the confusion, the HUSA Senate launched an investigation of their own into the nature of the debt.
“It was said that, basically, the [8th HUSA Senate] had overspent. So then we had a couple of questions, like how is a body able to overspend that level of money?” said Jordyn Allen, a chairwoman for the HUSA Senate. “We’re not talking about a couple hundred dollars, we’re talking about 20 grand,” Allen said.
Upon further inquiry and communication with the university, HUSA Senate was left with more questions. The Senate reports that the university has yet to provide accurate financial documentation on the deficit that they have been told to pay.
“When I started asking the questions, ‘can you provide documentation on how we got here?’ we were provided backlogs and ledgers that didn’t add up,” said Allen. “When they sent out their list on how everything was spent we couldn’t find it in the ledgers. There were some transactions that were there, but all of them weren’t there, and there were also transactions that we couldn’t justify based on what we voted to spend,” she continued.
In fact, HUSA Senate’s investigation indicated that there was a surplus during the 2019-2020 school year.
“In the year of 2019, the Senate was told it had $130,000 to spend, and in our records we spent $100,000 of that,” said Allen. “Based on our records, there is a $30,000 surplus that we did not spend,” she continued.
In addition, HUSA Senate reports that the financial documents they have been receiving from the university’s restricted accounts have been inconsistent and conflicting.
“None of the documents that have been provided to us have been consistent, so then it becomes more confusing for us,” Allen said. “Because some have shown $20,000, others have shown much larger numbers, and so we’re trying to figure out what is going on,” she said.
HUSA Executive, Howard’s executive student government body, supports HUSA Senate’s continued investigation into the deficit.
“The 10th HUSA Senate demonstrates the clear need for improved communication and transparency between students and administration,” HUSA Executive President Kylie Burke said. “HUSA Executive fully supports the valid and responsible inquiries being made by the Senate in regards to their deficit. We have been supportive of their efforts and will continue to do so,” she continued.
The night of the announcement, Howard students and alumni took to social media to voice their frustration.
“It is unfair to them as student leaders to not only be missing their budget for the semester but also have no idea when it is coming. I feel as though it’s completely unfair to the student body,” Alexandria Allen, a junior elementary education major said.
Malaya Roberts, a senior supply chain management major, was particularly frustrated that this was an issue, considering the donations and aid the university has been receiving.
“Having received email after email over the past year about all the donations, and a sitting president with a salary of $1 million, couldn’t possibly result in a $20,000 deficit of our Student Association,” Roberts said, “I feel it is now the responsibility of the University to make up for their past mistakes.”
“I honestly wasn’t surprised by what occurred and the reaction on Howard’s part. Money just tends to disappear at the school,” said Jeremiah Smith, a 2020 graduate.
The HUSA Senate says they will update the Howard community as they continue to seek answers, and affirm that they have no intentions of dismissing the issue.
“We plan to move forward with the allocations we’ll receive in the fall, but we’re still not letting that $20,000 go. We’re going to have to know where that money is,” said Allen.
Copy edited by: N’dia Webb