Field of Science

How to run a University - Travel Reimbursement

The worst part of travel, even worse than the hassle of flying, is doing battle with travel reimbursement. This might be characterized as much ado about nothing, or very little, since it seems the state doesn't think scholars in international fields ever need to travel beyond its political boundaries. At any rate they provide so little support for professional travel that you are almost tempted to just say to heck with it to avoid the hassle. Here's an example of how the university does things. The Phactor was traveling with a dozen or so students and another faculty member. During airline checkin the university credit card being used for luggage fees, each charged separately, is refused because of the number of charges in a short period of time, so my personal credit card is used to continue the process. In seeking reimbursement for the luggage fees, for which the money is already on hand, paid by the students so it isn't state money anyways, the reimbursement is refused because one of the charges is for another faculty member, who must seek reimbursement himself. Now he never paid for anything, so he must fraudulently ask for reimbursement, which will entail another form to be processed, and then after waiting for a check, must cash it and then, voluntarily, repay his colleague for the luggage fee. What a system. And then there's the issue of alcohol. It's not enough to simply give them a receipt for a modest dinner, they want to see an itemized ticket to assure that you didn't try to get reimbursed for a glass of house red. Barbarians! Then there was the time the Phactor was doing field work in a foreign country and needed reimbursement for the 2-3 hours of driving to and from study sites. Now this was back when gas in the USA was really cheap, but the rest of the world was paying unsubsidized prices, which now people in the USA are whining about. Well, ditch the Escalade; it's stupid car. Oh, but the reimbursement per mile (and the Phactor was driving kilometers) was pegged to state-wide prices per gallon (and the Phactor was purchasing liters). And did it matter that the grant money was based on doing biology in a foreign country with different gas prices? Nope! So to cover the difference, and make the business office bean-counters happy, suddenly my study site got a lot further away. Didn't matter that the commute in question would leave almost no time for actual field work; dealing with reality just isn't that important to the cubicle queens. Good thing this trip was only to St. Louis. Gad, the paper work for the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, which the Phactor is off to next Tuesday, will be the stuff of horror movies.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I once was asked by the state to go a conference where the registration fee was $500. If I were a member of the sponsoring organization, the fee was $350. Membership was $40. At that time, $40 was more than I could afford, if I had even wanted it. Membership had to be a person, not an organization. $40 was more than I could afford at the time and the state wouldn't reimburse a membership that "benefitted" me rather than the state. So, they shelled out $500 and I went anyway.