‘Communication ... needs to exist’

$50,000 sponsorship goal was ‘never attainable,’ Frosh Week co-ordinator says

Arts and Science frosh are doused in shaving cream during Frosh Week 2007, whose went up 38 per cent this year.
Arts and Science frosh are doused in shaving cream during Frosh Week 2007, whose went up 38 per cent this year.
Journal File Photo
The numbers Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell found in her audit of the ORT don’t match the numbers given to her by co-ordinator Ryan Shoemaker.
The numbers Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell found in her audit of the ORT don’t match the numbers given to her by co-ordinator Ryan Shoemaker.

A total lack of communication between the Orientation Round Table (ORT) and faculty societies led to financial discrepancies and invoices sent to faculty societies for thousands of dollars more than they expected, says AMS Vice-President (University Affairs) Julia Mitchell.

The report Mitchell’s writing based on the audit she conducted of ORT’s finances isn’t complete because she’s in Florida attending a conference on non-academic discipline. Mitchell said she has already told all the faculty societies what ballpark figures they should expect on their final Frosh Week bills, but the main result from her audit will be a few policy changes.

“[There will be] just more emphasis on the fact that ORT needs a closer eye and the person who is ORT needs to be more financially responsible,” she said. “The communication actually needs to exist. … [This year] there was none.

“The Orientation Round Table … didn’t exist as a round table by any means; this year it existed sort of as more of a, ‘Here’s what I’ve ordered, FYI.’”

The ORT falls under the Campus Activities Commission, which is under the purview of the vice-president (university affairs).

At last week’s AMS Assembly Commerce Society President Dave Waugh and EngSoc President Charlie Scott brought forward a motion to revise ORT policy to make it more accountable.

Mitchell is mandated to bring recommended policy changes to AMS Assembly by Feb. 28.

Mitchell said all the numbers she found through her audit differ from the numbers ORT Co-ordinator Ryan Shoemaker gave her.

“What came out on the invoice and what I calculated was quite different.”

Mitchell said even the correct numbers put the cost of this year’s Frosh Week at about $198,000, partly due to the ORT purchasing more items for the faculties, Mitchell saod.

She said much of the increase could have been avoided or better communicated to the faculty societies.

“There are still, you know, some charges that could have been planned for, or had there been better communication, we would have been able to make them earlier at a better price,” she said. “ASUS had to buy a tent last-minute for an outdoor event that they had and it cost $6,000 for that one tent. That’s a substantial amount of money for one tent for just one event.”

Faculty societies are more upset at being taken by surprise than they are by the high costs themselves, Mitchell said.

“It’s the most frustrating thing for the faculty societies to know they sort of had been kept in the dark with all this stuff and I feel very bad about that,” she said. “There’s some kind of element of, not customer service, but a degree of quality of service we owe the faculty societies when we’re doing this, and I don’t think that existed this year. … The whole nature of the relationship that existed between the faculty societies and ORT wasn’t conducive to that type of environment.”

Mitchell said the ORT co-ordinator is supposed to meet with faculty societies leading up to and during the summer to discuss logistics around that year’s Frosh Week, what each faculty needs for its events and what cross-faculty events are planned.

“It’s a formal way of meeting to make sure everyone has what they need,” she said. “[This year], from what I understand it was mostly like, things were ordered and he got quotes and numbers from people but … Ryan would place the order but never give them a quote for how much that would cost.”

Mitchell said Shoemaker never told the faculty societies ORT was budgeting for a 47 per cent increase from Frosh Week 2006.

The ORT’s budget was set in early 2007, Mitchell said, before she took office.

“I’m not sure if the value of the budgeting process was not realized or they didn’t realize the importance of communicating to the faculty societies,” she said. “If they had known that, maybe they would have been happy we only ended up going 38 per cent above instead of 47.”

Instead, faculty societies received Frosh Week invoices for thousands of dollars more than they budgeted for. ASUS projected a $5,000 to $10,000 increase from last year, Mitchell said, and they’re faced with a $15,000 to $20,000 jump. She said faculty societies also weren’t told they wouldn’t get sponsorship money this year. AMS Assembly decided the projected $50,000 should go towards administrative costs for the ORT, such as the co-ordinator’s salary.

“We decided we’d use part of that sponsorship to cover the administrative cost of orientation, which makes sense depending on how you want to look at it,” she said. “The idea that was going to happen was stressed to ORT to ensure that had been communicated well. … There is no record whatsoever of that being communicated.”

Mitchell said because the transition period is flawed, she didn’t know what was expected of her in terms of keeping faculty societies informed.

The ORT ended up raising $16,000 sponsorship funding in total.

“We were pretty ambitious this year, and me not knowing very much about the history of ORT, I had spoken to the Orientation Round Table co-ordinator and sort of had a couple meetings with him,” she said. “He’d mentioned in this whole thing, they would be capable of [$45,000] or $50,000 worth of sponsorship. So I said, ‘Great, that sounds amazing. The more sponsorship the better because the less comes from student pockets.’”

Mitchell said that, because of the miscommunications, the AMS is passing the sponsorship money on to the faculty societies anyway.

“The AMS will take the hit for that,” she said. “I, personally, don’t think it’s fair for us to take that from faculty societies. … I think this is the least we can do.”

The ORT is projected to post a loss of $12,000 to $14,000 for the year.

Mitchell said she’s most upset about the effect the lack of communication had on the Frosh Week and first-year experience.

“Notwithstanding the whole money situation, the biggest thing for me was that I didn’t want this, the problems for this year, to be passed on to the frosh in any way,” she said. “The biggest, I think, downfall of this year was that 80 or so frosh did not receive tams. Computing science never received tams due to confusion or a missed order or whatever, and that is a tangible thing that is unacceptable.”

The AMS orders its tams in bulk from China through Kingston-based Primetime Marketing. Mitchell said it would be too expensive to order only the Computing Students Association (COMPSA) tams by themselves.

The AMS will pay for COMPSA to get double the number of tams next year, and last year’s frosh will get their tams a year late.

Shoemaker said he was in “constant contact” with faculty societies via e-mail over the summer. He said any surprises for faculty societies when they got their invoices were due to bad budgeting on their part.

“If they had budgeted for the correct number they would have had the correct amount of money,” he said. “I wouldn’t have said [what the cost was] at the time but they would have known. They would have budgeted for an amount. … If [ASUS] wanted a $7,000 tent but only budgeted $300 for the event, they obviously would have known they were going over budget.”

Shoemaker said he had nothing to do with setting the ORT’s budget.

“It was done in the summer when I was on vacation,” he said. “There’s so little institutional memory that none of us saw a problem with it.”

Shoemaker said the goal of raising $50,000 in sponsorship money was “never attainable.” He said that goal was set by last year’s advancement and development officer, Max Rubin.

He said faculty societies should have known they weren’t getting sponsorship money because that motion was passed during the summer AMS Assembly.

Much of this year’s increases in cost are due to construction, Shoemaker said.

“There were just things that couldn’t be anticipated,” he said. “That is solely where any increases came from this year.”

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