Senate Funds Dance Production Despite Probable Embezzlement

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Author: Martha Carol

After a semester of re-evaluating budgeting systems and regulations, the ASOC Senate’s concern with finances came to a head with the allocation of $3,000 on Nov. 17 to Dance Production after much of the Production’s funding was misplaced. Dance Production representatives explained to the Senate that they had misplaced at least $4,000 of their profits from the 2009 show and needed replacement funding to purchase costumes.

At the Senate meeting, dance production representatives reported that they were at a loss for the whereabouts of the missing money, but that they were working with Assistant Dean of Student Development and Director of Student Life Tamara Rice to locate the money and would possibly enlist legal help.

Nicole Leung (junior), a coordinator of the 2010 Dance Production, declined to share details about Dance Production’s missing money until the issue is settled but said, “Dance Production started the year with $4,000 less than expected in our account. We do not know what happened to the money and how it is missing. We are currently working with Tamara Rice to contact the past treasurer.”

Several other Dance Production members and officers declined to comment on the issue of the missing $4,000.

During the next ASOC Senate meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1 several members of the Senate discussed the previous meeting’s allocation of $3,000 to Dance Production and questioned the whereabouts of the missing money.

As Senators discussed the missing funds, it was clear that although nothing was definite the money was probably taken by a student. Just after the meeting had started, Sophomore Senator and Head of Funding Aliza Goldsmith explained to ASOC President Andrew DeBlock (senior) and the other senators that, it was “embezzlement most likely.” She continued to explain that Dean of Students Barbara Avery had set aside money for Dance Production, but the executive board members “didn’t ask [her] for anything because they had already gotten $3,000 from Senate. So you know we have to be careful.”

In a later interview Goldsmith had little detail on the whereabouts of the missing Dance Production money but said, “The student treasurer of Dance Production seemed to have lost a lot of money over a few years.”

At the Dec. 1 meeting, after reviewing and critiquing the decision to give Dance Production the full $3,000, the Senate focused on economizing the allocation system. Several ASOC Senators expressed displeasure that they usually give most clubs the full amount of money requested – particularly the $3,000 requested by Dance Production.

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the Dance Production, Goldsmith said in a later interview, “Dance Production is a great thing for the school but they should have approached different offices for money or had fundraisers.”

Prompted by Goldsmith, the Senate devoted an increased amount of time analyzing its approach to funding at the Dec. 1 meeting. Goldsmith said, “Go to the president. Go to ORSL. Go to OSL. They all have funds and they’ll all probably be willing to chip in a little bit. So I don’t think it is our responsibility to be the sole supplier for clubs or . . . organizations . . . also this is all student fees . . . Every single student at the school is paying these fees. So, is it fair for us to be giving a certain club full funding every week? . . . So just think about all that before you vote.”

During their weekly allocation of funds, the Senators spent 15 minutes debating whether or not to give $30 for rock climbing to the Outdoors Club on the grounds that the Senate wanted to focus its funding toward events that would benefit the most students and promote clubs to find other sources of funding. “If we were going to make a stand [to promote prudent allocation of funding by declining to fully financing every request], Dance Production would have been the place to make a stand,” Andres Quispe-Hansen (junior) said.

According to DeBlock, the Senate implemented the current budgeting system several years ago in order to avoid funding allocation clouded by human emotions. One senator who was a math major wrote an algorithm to calculate how much money each club should receive based upon guidelines that prioritized cultural, educational and larger events that would benefit a greater number of students.

However, the algorithm was built at a time when the school’s student population was much smaller and is now considered by several senators to be fairly obsolete despite its merits. DeBlock said, “[The algorithm] has so little human input to it, but at least it gave a guideline for funding.”

The Senate is attempting to rewrite the algorithm to better incorporate the prioritization of larger events, but not without difficulty. The former student and ASOC Senator took the algorithm with him when he graduated, leaving the senators without the details of the equation.

According to DeBlock, allocation by the Senate had been very arbitrary in the past and gave significant preference to random clubs connected with people on the Senate. In reaction to this situation, the senator who wrote the algorithm never shared the formula he used so that clubs could not unfairly manipulate the new algorithm-based system.

This has proved to be a problem for the current Senate because the senators want to update the algorithm to reflect their priorities for funding. Presently, Goldsmith is working to write a new algorithm that better suits the Senate’s priorities.

The Senate focused much of its energy this semester on renovating all aspects of its finances. First, the Senate went back to the ASOC Constitution to review the basic policies behind the budgeting systems. They found that the Constitution, after requiring that the Senate set aside a certain amount of money for KOXY and The Weekly to ensure separation of media and student government, mandated the Senate to allocate over 100 percent of its budget.

The Senators proposed revisals for several sections of the Constitution, but were unable to officially include them in the Constitution due to a low voter turnout for the budget amendment ballot.

Currently the Senate is using the guidelines outlined in the proposed Constitutional amendment after voting them in as an operational budget on Oct. 27. The proposed Constitutional amendments will be up for vote again at the end of this semester.

“We will be cracking down on this second semester,” said Goldsmith.

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