Millions of student dollars were hidden for a month in a binary world of ones and zeroes, lost somewhere within the university's new computer service provider, PeopleSoft. Meanwhile, the Students' Union and student groups waiting for levies tightened their belts and waited for overdue payments.
This week the SU received a $1.9 million payment from administration. The payment is the first of three overdue payments of SU fees, attributed to issues with PeopleSoft. The payments, which make up the majority of SU operating funds, also left organizations dependent on SU levies waiting for funding.
"We're one month late with one payment, two weeks late with the other and three days late with the next one," explained U of C Director of Financial Services Heather Bazant. "The staff is not only getting trained on new software, but also learning new reconciliation techniques."
SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Joel Lockwood said the late payment came just in time to pay the SU bills.
"We're feeling the crunch ourselves and it's been that way with everyone," said Lockwood. "Administration is always a little late but usually it's the end of September, not November."
Lockwood said he understands the difficulty with PeopleSoft.
U of C staff have been struggling with PeopleSoft since it was launched in August. Despite extensive staff training, the learning curve is steep, and administration said they wanted to ensure payments are correct before doling out any funds.
"We're doing everything to make sure that we're absolutely correct," said Associate Vice-President Administration Gayle Gorrill.
Even though staff received extensive training on the new system, many have expressed frustration.
"There's a limit to how much you can do in advance until you're actually using it," said Gorrill. "We are currently going through some challenges."
Student Legal Assistance is one of the SU's levy recipients waiting on their cash. While they have managed financially this year without their SU levy, SLA Executive Director Maureen Mallett acknowledged PeopleSoft has caused much frustration among university faculty and staff.
"It's a nightmare," said Mallett. "Once we all learn to use it, it'll be fine. But we're still learning how to use it and we're not able to get answers very fast. I think peoples' patience is wearing thin."
Mallett added the PeopleSoft technical support help desk is extremely busy and when university staff have questions there is often a delay in response time.
Lockwood assured that campus groups waiting for their levies will receive payment within the next 15 business days.