Hawaii CC charging for services that don’t exist, removes Student Council members who ask questions

Hawaii Community College has been charging students for services that don't exist.

Three members of the Student Council questioned the school about the money and were removed from their positions.

Over the past year and a half, Hawaii Community College has charged students $245,000 in student fees for services that do not exist and is refusing to provide receipts detailing what it has done with the money, Campus Reform has learned.

Furthermore, the Student Council has eliminated three members after they questioned the school about its use of the money—and the purged members told Campus Reform that it was in retaliation for their questions.

Since Hawaii CC split from University of Hawaii in January 2013, students have no longer been able to use UH’s recreational facility or media centers—but are still being charged the fees to pay for them.

School officials said in a statement that the money was being banked for future use, not spent, according to an article in Hawaii News Now. In addition, a study by Hawaii News Now found that Hawaii CC held onto an additional $173,000 in student activity fees, rather then spend them.

However, former Student Activities Board Treasurer Marieta Carino—one of those removed shortly after asking for receipts detailing how student fee money was spent—told Campus Reform that even if this was the case, it wasn’t fair.

“People already graduate prior, and you already collected the money and you never gave them the services and benefits,” she said in an interview on Monday.

“If you pay three semesters, that’s $93. It’s like, wait a minute. I don't think it’s good for you to be collecting money and you don't give me something in return,” she added.

Carino said an administrator told her that perhaps some students could get refunds for the fees, but that the school could not pay back everyone.

Carino, with the permission of Eric Aranug, the then-Student Government President, sent a letter to Student Council Advisor Larissa Leslie requesting the receipts.

“In order for me to start balancing the Activity budget, I will need a full and accurate accounting of Student Fee income, expenses, and receipts,” she wrote in the letter, a copy of which was provided to Campus Reform.

In the letter, Carino noted that she needed the receipts in order to complete her duty as treasurer, whose job is to “monitor and record all related fiscal transactions and their statuses.”

According to Carino, Leslie said that she could not see the receipts because they did not exist anymore due to computer technology, but invited her to wait four-and-a-half hours in her office to look at them on the computer.

“You have an invoice, who do you think you're talking to?” Carino told Campus Reform. “I wasn't born yesterday.”

“If they don't have anything to hide, why don't they just come out and say ‘Hey, here are the receipts?” she added.

On March 12—just 10 days after sending the letter—she and Aranug were informed that the Student Council was removing them for “misconduct.”

But Carino said she is confident the removal was due to pressure from the school for asking the questions—especially considering that a member who asked for receipts in 2013 suffered the same fate.

In 2013, former Student Government Treasurer David Canning also sent a letter to Leslie—the same advisor that Carino contacted—and was also subsequently removed from his position.

“We wrote a formal letter, asked seven different times for the receipts for the money that was being spent, and the advisor would come give us a budget for line items we had already paid in the previous semester—basically double billing,” he said in an interview with Campus Reform.

“She was claiming that she had spent these funds for student employees that was like $60,000 a year, yet those student employees were being paid by federal work study programs and Bridge of Hope Grants,” he added. “We're talking about $1.2 million that's missing and unaccounted for since 2011.”

Another school, University of Hawai'i West Oahu, also made news in January for charging students for services that did not exist—but that school did agree to return the money to students.

Hawaii CC administrators did not respond to requests for comment from Campus Reform.

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