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The Blue & Gray Press | December 15, 2017

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RA/HR Money Mix-up

BY JUSTIN TONEY
Approximately one fourth of the University’s Residence Assistants and Head Residents could not receive paychecks for the pay period between August 6 and 27, forcing the Office of Financial Aid to make institutional loan money available for those in immediate financial need.

Campus Employment Supervisor Angie Pitzer, became aware of the problem last Thursday, Sept.13, when many of the twenty-one employees who had been denied payment made their situation known to her.

Assistant Director of Residence Life Natalie Ellis noticed the problem on Friday, and investigated options with Pitzer. However, no solution could be enacted until Assistant Dean of Financial Aid Debra Harper returned to campus the following Monday.

When Harper arrived, she and Pitzer decided to make interest-free loans available to the affected students from a University account set aside to assist students with delayed financial aid. “This time, financial aid happens to be student employment instead of a loan or a scholarship,” said Harper.

The fund, known as the Mosiman Loan Fund, is not in danger of being over-drawn, says Harper. She is not concerned that the loans to Residence Life employees will cause problems with the fund.
“The situation was decided under the presumption that the students hadn’t been paid and needed to be paid,” Harper continued, “That was the easiest way and the fastest way to get students their money.”
RAs and HRs who did not receive payment can borrow the amount due to them until Oct. 4, when they will receive their first and second payments at once.

Pitzer, who processes student payments, said that she did not receive the necessary paperwork for the first payments until four days after Residence Life employees were supposed to receive their checks—over a week after the deadline for supervisors to turn in the papers.

According to Harper, the Financial Aid office knew that the paperwork was forthcoming.

All of the affected students fall under the jurisdiction of Phil Stamper, Assistant Director of Residence Life and supervisor of the UMW Apartments, Russell, Marshall, South, and Framar Halls. He confirmed that none of the RAs or HRs in his buildings have yet received their official payments.

Director of Residence Life and Housing, Chris Porter, spoke only briefly about the payments that nearly a quarter of her staff did not receive. “I don’t know what happened, but I know it was an issue and it won’t happen again.”

When asked how she was assured that the problem would not recur, Porter went on to say, “I’m not saying I don’t know what happened… It’s a personal performance issue, and I’m not comfortable talking about it.”

Stamper confirmed that it was his responsibility to ensure that the time sheets were turned in on time, but had been instructed by his superiors not to discuss why this responsibility was not met. He denied that the incident was intentional.

Prior to Pitzer and Harper’s decision, Stamper volunteered his own financial aid. “Before I had known the loans existed, I had offered to help personally… anyone who had financial need,” he said.

He predicts that the same error will not occur again. “It bothers me,” he added. “It does bother me.”

Until Stamper made the option of temporary loans known on Monday, multiple RAs and HRs shared with the Bullet that they had considered resigning from Residence Life. Porter has made it known that no members of Residence Life except herself may speak to members of the press under penalty of termination.

Multiple anonymous RAs and HRs who have spoken with Stamper claim that he had lost the paperwork and that other assistant directors were aware who and how many would not be paid. The situation was never explained to those it affected until after last Thursday.

As of noon on Tuesday, only one of the students offered the loans has taken advantage of the opportunity. Pitzer said she was surprised at the lack of urgency. “It hasn’t impacted my work load,” she said. “I thought it would, because I expected more people here.”

Harper has spoken with Vice President of Business and Finance Rick Pearce about creating a “special payroll” in case a similar situation occurs again. “That might not mean that students get their money any faster,” said Harper. “The difference is that there’s less follow-up and paperwork involved than with the Mosiman Fund.”

Pearce says it is not uncommon for time sheets not to get in on time, but admits it rarely happens to this degree. He is looking into the possibilities of a special payroll that would enable the University to pay employees through the state, but outside of the normal state pay cycle.

All employees at the University must be paid through the Virginia state cycle. Pearce was unable to say when or if his request to establish a special payroll will be approved by the Virginia Legislature.