Committee formed to streamline SOFO process through digital workflow


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

The Student Organization Finance Office Window in Norris University Center. A committee, named the SOFO Digital Workflow Committee, was formed to examining the current paper process for finances and suggesting solutions for a new digital workflow.

Elizabeth Byrne, Campus Editor

Following student feedback on the Student Organization Finance Office, a new committee has been formed to examine the current paper process for finances and suggest solutions for a new digital workflow.

The committee, named the SOFO Digital Workflow Committee, is made up of members of Associated Student Government, the SOFO office and NU Information Technology and is led by Norris Executive Director Jeremy Schenk. The committee met for the first time on Thursday.

Schenk said the committee’s goal is to come up with possible solutions and evaluate the costs associated with a new digital workflow that will later be suggested to the University for implementation. He added that the committee hopes the new process will be streamlined without replacing the in-person interactions.

“One of the benefits of the SOFO process right now is that we have the SOFO window so that people can go get (help) face to face,” Schenk said. “Our students need to be able to go somewhere to get that support. So whatever process that goes into place will still keep the SOFO window, so that way people can get walked through if there are issues.”

He added that the proposed workflows will not affect leadership roles and will keep students involved throughout the process. He said he hopes the important education elements from the current process will be in the new workflow.

Maanas Bhatt, ASG deputy chief of staff and committee member, said he hopes the digitization of SOFO will allow more students to participate in a process that helps them become more knowledgeable about money management.

“Currently, the SOFO paper process might turn students away from engaging with SOFO and I believe that one important aspect of SOFO is increasing the financial literacy of students,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “Because SOFO works like a bank, the students who interact with SOFO tend to learn a lot of the different financial maneuvering that it takes in the real world outside of Northwestern as well.”

He added that the new workflow will increase transparency throughout the process so students will know exactly where their reimbursement is. One idea is to have emails sent to the student at every step of the way.

Izzy Dobbel, ASG vice president of A-status finances and committee member, said she hopes the committee will propose a new workflow that allows student leadership positions to be more accessible with the current voucher system. In the present SOFO voucher system, she said, students are sometimes asked to front hundreds of dollars that aren’t repaid for weeks.

“It exclusively creates a barrier in which not all students have access to leadership because if you can’t front that kind of money, it puts you at a disadvantage inherently,” the SESP junior said.

Dobbel added that it can make students feel uncomfortable financially and restrict students by making them choose a part-time job over a leadership position because of the voucher process.

Schenk said that in addition to the voucher system, students can check out prepaid debit cards or request a cash advance through SOFO for specific purchases. All three processes are different, he said, but the debit card and cash advance are lesser known. He added that there needs to be more education on the alternative programs to the voucher system.

While a timeline for the new SOFO workflow proposals is still developing, Schenck said it’s moving forward in a “timely manner.”

“It’s going to be a bit of a tedious process initially but if we can get it done and done well, I think at that point then it’s going to be a process that can be beneficial for everyone involved,” Schenk said.

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