Financial VP weighs in on LSU financial statements

SFU executive says he's 'surprised' LSU finances aren't posted online

Campus sign to the LSU. Photo: Liam Hill-Allan
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Reported by Liam Hill-Allan

Students at post-secondary institutions benefit when their unions publicly post their financial documents, said the financial executive at Simon Fraser University’s student union.

Matthew Chow, the SFU student union’s vice-president of finance, said it is difficult for students to understand where their money is going if they can’t access records.

SFU’s student union posts its financial statements on their website.

“The reason why you would want to strive to be transparent as a society because you have an obligation to your membership,” Chow said.

Financial documents still not posted online

After reviewing LSU’s financial documents, at the request of The Voice, Chow said he’s surprised the statements were not available.

Recent changes to the B.C. Societies Act have increased the transparency demanded of non-profit societies. While B.C. student unions are not obliged to post financial documentation online, most in B.C. upload their records annually. The LSU does not.

Emilia Nad, a Langara computer science student, thinks they should be posted online.

“If it’s something useful, we should be okay with [what’s in the documents],” Nad said.  But if students don’t know what money is being spent on, “you’re kind of suspicious as to what they are doing with it.”

In an email exchange last fall, the LSU told The Voice it planned to make its financial records available online “very soon.”

On Feb. 4, The Voice requested an update from the LSU on when its financial records would be online. No answer was provided by publication time.

Council and executive meeting minutes and the LSU’s governance are not currently posted on the LSU website. The LSU is, however, posting regular event news.

This is two years after the LSU approved $15,000 for a “new website,” according to LSU meeting minutes from Nov. 14, 2017 from documents The Voice acquired.

Good examples and bad

For Curtis Whittla, director of finance and operations at the University of Victoria Students Society, publishing financial documentation helps students understand how their fees are spent.

“I would say that it’s just part of our philosophy,” Whittla said.

Chow thinks some non-profit organizations that don’t publish financial documentation might be hiding something.

That can sometimes be “an indicator that there’s some deceit or wrongdoing,” Chow said.

Two weeks ago, two student union executives at Ryerson University in Toronto were suspended after the student newspaper, The Eyeopener, reported hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable spending by the society, including nightclub outings and alcohol.

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