Spending Policy for Faculty using College Funds

Detailed travel and business expense guidelines can be found on the controller’s office website.  Faculty members often have questions not specifically covered by those quidelines, so this page is meant to provide a supplemental overview and summary of spending policies as they apply to research and travel funds, start-up accounts, named chair accounts, internal fellowship accounts, and grant funded research.  The goal of these policies is to facilitate faculty research and teaching efforts while complying with IRS regulations and managing our financial resources effectively and ethically.

The following list provides several common examples of allowable expenses.

  • transportation, lodging, and meals for business travel
  • professional conference fees
  • dues to professional organizations
  • subscriptions to journals or other publications relevant to your teaching or research
  • compensation of student research assistants (hourly and/or stipend)
  • compensation of professional editors or research assistants
  • copyright fees and publication subvention
  • books, reprints, scores, photographs, films, software, recordings and other items related to your teaching or research
  • continuing education such as coursework, seminars, and workshops relevant to your teaching or research

The overarching rule of thumb is that business expenses are allowed while personal expenses are not.  The distinction between business and personal expenses is in most cases obvious, but there are a few questions that come up regularly.

  • The IRS states that expenditures for business meals cannot be lavish or extravagant.  Likewise, the college expects that business meals will be modest and fully documented as to the purpose and who attended.  Please see detailed guidelines on the controller’s website (here).

  • The College will reimburse the cost of airline tickets in coach class only.  All efforts should be made to obtain the lowest, coach fare available.  Please see detailed guidelines on the controller’s website (here).

  • Research funds can be used to pay for faculty business travel but cannot be used to offset the costs of having a spouse/partner or dependent travel with you.  Nor can they pay for family or pet care in your absence.

  • Research funds can be used to furnish, improve or maintain your office at the College, but should not be used to furnish, improve or maintain an office at home.  Faculty should coordinate the purchase of office furnishings for their campus offices with the Facilities department.

  • The college provides all faculty members with a computer, either a desktop or a laptop, for use at work. Loaner computers for short-term secondary use are also available from OIT or the library.  While college funds should not be used to purchase a computer or computing peripherals just for use at home, a second personal computer is sometimes necessary to facilitate research in the field or lab, or teaching in the classroom.  In those cases faculty members should submit a Personal Electronic Device Form prior to making the purchase.  In addition, faculty members should coordinate the purchase of all computer equipment with OIT.

  • As with extra computers, purchases of other kinds of electronic devices must be pre-authorized.  The college allows the purchase of tablets (e.g. iPads), e-readers (e.g. Kindle) and laptops so long as their use is primarily for academic, research, or business purposes.  However, this policy does not include cell / smart phones (see below for more on cell phones).  Also, because extensive wi-fi coverage is available on campus, the college ordinarily will not cover the cost of a cellular data plan for any device.  For more information, see the policy and procedures statement regarding personal electronic devices.

  • Any equipment, software, or other durable resources (including computers, furniture, digital cameras, iPads, lab/studio tools, etc.) purchased with college and grant research funds are the property of Williams College and remain so when a faculty member leaves Williams.

  • The cost of connecting while traveling for business can be covered, but not for connecting from home.

  • Subscription to online services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vimeo, Spotify, Audible, are personal expenses and therefore only rarely eligible for payment with college funds. To be considered a business expense, a streaming service would have to be used solely for scholarly purposes directly related to work at Williams.  Therefore please seek authorization ahead of time from the dean of the faculty’s office.

  • The college has a business account with Amazon.com which is available to faculty members and provides tax-exempt status for business purchases.  Please click through the Amazon link on the Controller’s Office website (here) and contact Lisa Gazaille ([email protected]) for additional information.  NOTE: the Amazon business account does not include individual Amazon Prime memberships, which are considered personal and not eligible for payment with college funds.

  • Faculty funds are generally not appropriate for purchasing gifts (e.g., as a thank you to a staff member for services performed, or as congratulations to a colleague for an important life event), nor for hosting celebratory meals or parties on their behalf.  The college’s appreciation and recognition policy can be found here

  • Itemized receipts are required for all expenses incurred while traveling.  The College does not maintain a per diem reimbursement plan unless you are traveling to multiple sites on business for more than 30 consecutive days (check with the Controller before your trip).

  • Faculty who travel on sabbatical or an assistant professor leave and who settle into one location for an extended residency are expected to bear the expense of routine living expenses (e.g., groceries, dry cleaning, day care for children, etc.), just as they would if they were living in Williamstown.

  • College funds should not be used for personal relocation or moving expenses within or beyond Williamstown.  However, they can be used to ship or transport personal belongings during a sabbatical or an assistant professor leave, not to exceed those items needed for the faculty member to carry out his or her scholarship or creative work away from Williamstown.