Field of Science

How a university works - The Business Office

Universities are not business, and anyone who thinks they should be run like a business doesn't know enough about education to be put in the position to make such a decision. However, that being said, things need to be bought, money needs to change hands, and it's good to keep track of things. For these reasons the business office exists. Now here's where the problem arises. Prof. Phactor for why did you buy these items? As it states on the reimbursement form, they were lab supplies. But you were buying fruits and vegetables? Correct, those are my lab supplies. But they can be used as food. Correct again, and that's why they are lab supplies; food is the subject of study. Are you feeding the students with this food? Why should it matter if things are consumed as part of their study? We are not certain these are appropriate purchases. Well, fortunately deciding what is and is not appropriate for my teaching is not your job to determine. It says here you purchased malt; isn't it used to make beer. Correct, malt is one of the ingredients of beer, but how it is used is not your concern. Again we question the appropriateness of this purchase. Why did you wait so long to ask for reimbursement on some of these purchases? Well, it's been a busy semester, and we all have a lot less paper work if the receipts are accumulated for awhile and combined in one reimbursement request. Do you spend so much time on every reimbursement? Do you have so much time, so little to do that you think a weekly filing for reimbursement is better than one filing per month? Check. And so it goes. People who have no idea at all about education nonetheless get to question what we do. And that's good business?


Eric said...

In their defense: the state or federal entity that is supplying the funds to reimburse you (which may even be your own research grant) is backed up by legislation that spells out what are and are not acceptable expenses for those funds. Part of the role of the business office is to make sure that the university is compliant with those laws. If/when the auditor comes, they are your first line of defense.

The Phytophactor said...

Ah, Eric, were it only so that they had a defensible position, but in this case it is neither state nor federal money involved; nothing but student money (lab fees) already paid for the purpose of lab supplies and approved by the academic department.

Eric said...

Just to be clear, I don't know who made the first comment, but it wasn't the usual Eric who comments here, who would be me. (Or moi if I'm in a Miss Piggy mood. I guess it's time for establishing an OpenID.) A good business office (and they do exist) should have a larger view of things and know what lies beneath a rule and when to question expenses or not. Your situation looked like picking so many nits, with nary a thought of auditors to come.

Brian said...

Dear Phactor,

do not lose this educational opportunity ! Go to the office 20 minutes before lunch time and explain exactly what you need the fruit for - in the minutest of detail. i know this will be difficult for you dear phactor, but make your explanation excrutiatingly wearisome. As lunchtime arrives, press on, full steam ahead - brook no interruptions. I think a practical exposition focusing on the durian fruit would be best. Finish up after 40 minutes or so...but be sure to return 20 minutes before going home time for the follow-up with a large selection of more fruit. Last time they will bother you.

My opportunity arose, early in my career, when an order for trout was queried. I allowed one specimen to mature for a couple of days on a sunny window sill and then went down to the office just before lunch. A short simple dissection with my pocket knife was sufficient, the piece de resistance being when I carved into the skull and flicked out the brain on the knife tip.

Follow-up was the next week when I offered to come down and explain why I had ordered diaper liners.

My orders were never queried again...which was a bit of a pity really as I had some other interesting animal anatomy and parasitology to explain...

boa sorte