A new student organization needs three things: members, money and a place to put its money. Acquiring the last two has just become a lot harder.
According to its website, Student Organization Accounts, or SOA, is a banking and bookkeeping service for IU student organizations. These accounts allow students to keep their organization’s funds in a safe place without having to create an outside bank account.
In an announcement published on its website in November 2017, SOA said it will no longer be opening new accounts for student organizations.
Students are allowed to form new organizations, but according to the announcement, they will need to establish their own financial accounts. This policy has frustrated students looking to create new organizations.
This announcement, among others regarding changes coming to SOA, has been removed from its website.
“Our biggest issue is they took away SOA accounts and didn’t provide a backup plan,” said Emily Reeg, president of the student organization Amal Outreach for Displaced Peoples. “It’s like they did half a job.”
Reeg said she officially formed her organization in the fall of 2017, but only after applying for an account did SOA inform her that it was no longer creating new accounts for students.
She said SOA did not give any suggestions for a possible next step.
“My treasurer was just told they weren’t doing SOA and then I kind of heard from word of mouth that I was going to need to open up a bank account,” she said.
In order to open an outside bank account, students must provide personal information that was not required by SOA.
Amber Pruett from the office of SOA said the only personal information a student needed to provide to open an SOA account was a phone number and email.
Reeg said in order to open an account at Chase bank, she needed to provide an abundance of personal information, including her Social Security number.
“It made me nervous in general,” Reeg said. “I don’t like having unnecessary tax information tied to me, especially because we’re a student organization, we’re not a business.”
The new business bank account is under her name, Reeg said, and with graduation approaching in the spring, she doesn’t know if it will be possible to transfer the account over to someone else.
“So that also is a foreseeable disaster,” Reeg said.
Jennifer Prusak, director of the Non-Profit Legal Clinic at IU said a small sample of student organizations have reached out with questions on the matter.
“The big thing that stuck out is how unprepared the students have felt by the University, how they weren’t given the information they needed and how angry they’ve been,” Prusak said.
Last spring, Prusak said three or four student organizations reached out to her clinic looking for help.
“We’ve counseled a few student groups on the feasibility of creating a nonprofit organization and counseled them on starting bank accounts,” Prusak said.
Amy Cornell, director of student services at the Media School, said she first heard about the termination of SOA at a meeting in 2015 but is still waiting on information from the University regarding a concrete plan for this transition.
“I think the big question is when are they going to start delivering information to student groups about what they should do in a meaningful way.”
Cornell said that when students come to her with questions, she has difficulty pointing them in the right direction.
“I always feel sort of embarrassed that we know there is this big stuff in the works that we just can’t articulate what’s going on very well,” Cornell said.
Pruett said SOA will keep its current accounts active during 2018-2019 academic year as part of the transition process. She said it is unclear when further changes will occur and what the next step in the process will be.
Pruett said they currently have 572 active student organization accounts in their system.
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