We feel so hoodwinked

AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell is conducting an audit of Orientation Round Table (ORT) spending following allegations of financial mismanagement by this year’s ORT Co-ordinator Ryan Shoemaker.

The ORT’s financial handlings came under review after Commerce Society President Dave Waugh and other society executives brought forward concerns about the bills they received for Frosh Week, many of which were thousands of dollars more than last year’s costs, and more than they had budgeted for.

Waugh said he received a bill for $18,885—$10,000 more than the previous year. The bills had only a one line item, offering no breakdown of where the money had been spent.

Spending was over budget partly because sponsorship totals fell below what Shoemaker and the ORT had projected—only $16,000 of an expected $50,000, leaving the committee short tens of thousands in funding.

Mitchell said every number she has arrived at in her audit differs from those in Shoemaker’s numbers—hardly something to inspire confidence in one’s student leaders and managers.

The ORT’s financial mess is nothing short of embarrassing. A lack of accountability has become almost characteristic of the AMS and faculty societies, but when transparency is merely an oft-uttered buzz word, it reflects poorly on Queen’s ability to select competent and trustworthy leaders.

Shoemaker didn’t make this mess all by himself and he shouldn’t have to clean it up alone, either. Mitchell—as well as Waugh and other society executives—are responsible for student dollars and should be constantly aware of where their money is being spent. If the ORT wasn’t getting the sponsorship money it had hoped to obtain, someone other than Shoemaker should have known about it. Society executives also had an interest in staying abreast of Frosh Week spending so they could budget accordingly—but they apparently remained willfully ignorant until handed a hefty bill.

The lack of communication between faculty societies, the AMS and its committees is nothing new. Financial bungling like this demonstrates the need for substantial reorganization.

The AMS should rethink its “no experience necessary” hiring promise—if monetary dealings figure in the job description, business experience should be a no-brainer pre-requisite. And if the experience isn’t there, it would be worthwhile for the AMS to invest in an accounting course for those employees expected to balance the books.

Mitchell’s audit is likely to reveal what seems painfully apparent: Frosh Week’s system of spending checks and balances is in a sorry state, and doesn’t feel “so good” at all.

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