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Things at Grinnell I don’t understand: Accounting pratices

There are many things at Grinnell that I don’t understand. Some of them are big. Some of them are small. Some of them just catch me at odd moments. Here’s one of them.

Recently, I noted that accounting requires students to submit original itemized receipts showing specific items [1,2]. Accounting also requires us to carefully tape our receipts to 8.5x11 inch sheets of paper, to list all of the people who show up when we have an open pizza night with a guest speaker, and so on and so forth.

You might therefore expect them to be equally careful in how they report information. You’d be wrong. For example, during the summer, I get piecemeal support from the College. I might get a stipend for developing a course, for supervising summer research students [3]. I might get a stipend for attending a workshop [4]. There are a few other things that carry stipends, too.

But what happens when I do more than one stipend-bearing activity in the same pay period? They have one line that just says Stipend and that combines all of the stipends. Is that a problem? I think it is, since I don’t always get the stipends I expect and want to know who I should ask. I believe it’s not easy for accounting to look up the info, since it often takes them a week to get back to me when I ask.

What really puzzles me is that twenty years ago, when I was at Dartmouth, Dartmouth was able to put stipends separately on my paycheck. Why can’t Grinnell.

Why does our accounting office ask for such precision in their input, but provide so little info for us? As I set, it’s one of those things about Grinnell that I don’t really understand [6].


[2] Faculty seem to have a bit more leeway. Accounting does not always require receipts on charges under $25.

[3] I think Henry walker once calculated that we get paid slightly above minimum wage for supervising summer research students. (We still get our nine-month salary, which is paid over twelve months. It’s just the extra for supervising summer research students that ends up being comparatively small.)

[4] I would, and do, attend workshops without getting a stipend [5].
Nonetheless, I appreciate the stipends when I receive them.

[5] I might even run workshops without getting a stipend, but that’s a bit less likely.

[6] Okay, I understand why they ask for such precision - they believe that the government requires it. What I don’t know is why they don’t provide us with similar precision.

Version 1.0 of 2017-09-23.