Correction appended, Sep. 14, 2010
In an apparent breakdown of Arts Undergraduate Society communication and management, Arts frosh is believed to be in severe debt this year. The deficit was announced last week at AUS council, and the exact figure is expected to be released sometime this week.
AUS VP Events Nampande Londe cited under-registration and unanticipated costs as the main reasons for the shortfall. Only between 1,450 and 1,500 students registered, despite an earlier increase in capacity by 300.
“The reason we set an additional cap at 1,800 was so we made sure we provided any first-year or incoming student under the jurisdiction of AUS the opportunity to participate in frosh,” Londe said, explaining that first-year students from the Faculties of Education, Social Work, and Arts and Science in addition to regular Arts students – around 2,500 first years, according to Londe – were eligible to participate in Arts frosh.
Casey Adams, one of six Arts Frosh coordinators, said the decision to increase capacity caused many planning and budgeting difficulties and went against the wishes of several coordinators.
“The budget shortfall was caused in large part because food, clubs; all of that was budgeted expecting a max cap of 1,800,” Adams said.
Frosh needed 1,600 students to break even.
To cover costs, registration was eventually opened to all McGill students for four hours on the last day to cover costs. Adams and another frosh coordinator, Yusra Khan, took issue with this decision at Council.
“The only motivation behind it was showing a profit margin and not giving a better event to the first years,” Adams told the AUS Council, noting that many of the more belligerent students he met were in the upper years.
A operational staff member speaking on condition of anonymity claimed that some organizers, desperate to register students, allowed Concordia students to sign up. AUS President Dave Marshall has said this confusion may be due to the fact that non-McGill students were allowed to attend night events as guests of actual participants.
The same frosh coordinator also attributed last-minute planning and Londe’s four-day absence due to a family emergency in early August as reasons for budgetary problems.
“[Her] absence caused me to be late on food deposits, and [frosh coordinator Brock Clancy] to be late on deposits for pubs and club night venues. A large Provigo order had to be done in three days because the SSMU and OAP refrigerators were unavailable after [Londe’s] failure to give them advance notice,” the coordinator wrote in an email to The Daily.
“Without refrigeration, all the food had to be delivered the day of, instead of being bought from a wholesaler like Costco and stored. Failures in organization like this abounded, and the increased costs were mostly a result of the rushed troubleshooting we had to do to cover failures,” the email read.
Londe felt that belated purchasing did not pose a financial problem.
“From my perspective, most of the things…would not have been any cheaper if we had bought them in advance,” she said.
At Council, Londe attributed most of the planning and budgetary problems to incomplete information passed on from previous years, which meant frosh organizers incurred many unexpected costs.
“When looking at last year’s budget, a lot of things in there weren’t explained – what they were, where they came from – so while they made money, we can’t entirely be sure,” she said. Many of the budgets included an incomplete list of receipts, or were confusing to follow.
Initially suggesting to Councillors that the budgets may have been “falsified,” she later told The Daily that there was no evidence for that belief. Marshall also confirmed that none of the independent annual audits in recent years have ever revealed foul play.
“There’s nothing to suggest it was falsified. What did concern me is there’s no way to really prove some of the numbers, and that’s really something that can’t continue,” Londe said.
Also raised as an issue at Council was the fact that VP Finance Majd Al Khaldi was not involved in drafting the budget – which Marshall and Londe later explained was due to confusion over his jurisdiction.
Khaldi, who was not mandated to stay in Montreal over the summer, was out of town while most of frosh was being planned, although his staff was present to help.
“While I was skulking away in the desert, my book keeper was still keeping tabs on [Londe] and her team. So there was a sort of controlled situation, it’s just not as ideal as it could have been,” Khaldi told councillors.
At Council, questions were also raised as to whether contracts were not in place until the morning of the pub crawl, and that other venues may not have been established until relatively late.
“We had contracts signed with the majority of the bars. Some of them we pulled in at the last minute, so we got them to invoice us, which is the equivalent of a contract,” Londe told Council.
“Those [organizers] handling the pub crawl got switched, some people did some bars, some people did other ones. Sometimes there was a lack of communication and that’s how sometimes we ended up with invoices instead of contracts,” Londe explained further in an interview with The Daily. Londe has insisted that these are equivalent to legal contracts.
However, a member of the operations staff – speaking on condition of anonymity because of a fear of damaging a personal relationship – felt this was still problematic for an organization as large as AUS.
“Verbal agreements – frankly, given how much money the AUS handles – are not acceptable,” the staff member said.
The printed version of this story incorrectly stated that an anonymous Frosh coordinator stated that Concordia students may have participated in Frosh. It was in fact said by an anonymous operational staff member. The Daily regrets the error.