By Nicole Kobie
Imagine making a withdrawl for food or rent, only to discover $1,600 missing. That scenario happened to seven students this semester, as a lack of communication and a computer glitch at Residence Services wreaked havoc with the campus-dwelling students’ cheque books. Even so, two of the students, Maquinna Abney and Crystal Hemsworth, still feel Residence Services is doing a decent job.
Residence students are required to send two cheques at the beginning of the year, one for the first semester and a postdated one for winter semester. Abney forgot she had already paid her January fees, and sent another cheque. Both were cashed by Residence Services, and Abeny’s bank account was overdrawn. After discovering this and reporting her error, she was told she would not get her money back for up to six weeks.
"How could an organization involving so many students make such an error?" said Abney, a third-year Social Scienes student, in a letter to the Gauntlet. "If one cheque went through on one day, wouldn’t it show up on a students file if they were to pay again? I will admit to my own stupidity, but I can’t help but blame Residence Services for their… equally blatantly stupid mistake."
While angry at first, after meeting with Director of Ancillary Services Peter Fraser, she says her problem was dealt with well.
"It was dealt with very efficiently, and [Fraser] was very nice and understanding," Abney explained. "He knew it wasn’t our fault. He didn’t apologize for Rez services; he said they do not have the right to [delay refunds]. He was very prompt and very good about getting back to us."
Both Abney’s and Hemsworth’s cheques were recovered by their banks and returned within several days.
Hemsworth’s story is similar to Abney’s. Having written the cheque for this semester for $15 too much, Hemsworth, a fourth-year General Studies student, wrote a new cheque, and delivered it with a note explaining the situation to Residence Services. Both cheques were cashed, although the second one bounced.
"It was totally their fault," explained Hemsworth. "It had nothing to do with me. My note went one way, and the cheque the other. They were really good about it, though."
This was due to a computer glitch, according to Fraser. The new system, which is used across North America, has no safeguards in place against double payments.
"In the end, what they got caught in was a system where some of the staff take the money and note it to the name, but aren’t actually doing the accounting," explained Fraser. "They have no idea if the students have paid in the last couple of days."
This has never happened before, according to Fraser, who credits the confusion to the new post-dated cheque payment system, implemented this year.
"Hey, it was nobody’s fault," said Fraser. "Unfortunately, they got caught in a system and it initially looked like they couldn’t get their money back. Once it came to the attention of the people who could do something, everything was put into place. Anytime a corporation takes money, you get a lot of red tape when you have to give [the money] back."
Both of the students’ banks were contacted and Residence Services paid Hemsworth’s bank fees.
"The university takes full responsibility for this," explained Fraser. "I don’t want any marks on their names."
Fraser advises anyone who is unsure if your bills have been paid to see Residence Services.