Recently, there has been quite a stir concerning lost funds from the Homecoming T-shirt sales, which were originally allocated to the senior class to be utilized for events involved the senior class gift. Just recently, the Student Assembly voted to approve the Senior Class Reimbursement Act, which allocated $1,920 to cover the undisclosed amount of losses. The reasons cited for approval of the bill were the dependency of the senior class on these funds for programming, along with the fact that the loss was through the oversight of a non-senior SA officer.
The issue for me, however, is not the amount of the money lost, but the lack of due diligence in assuring the money was properly secured and accounted for. I know that the general impression of the College of William and Mary is one of a safe campus where students can leave valuables unattended without any thought of theft, but this story is clearly another example of why this belief is simply untrue. People naturally act differently when they feel they are not being observed, which provides someone with extra incentive to make away with the belongings of another. This is not to say that the campus is full of thieves, but I will hear of the occasional laptop, bicycle or wallet being stolen from various places around campus.
Furthermore, citing the fact that the loss was due to the mistake of a non-senior officer for rationale in reimbursing the senior class is digressing from the central point. Regardless of who was responsible, the logic in reimbursing the senior class for programming is flawed. Essentially, the SA has voted to move funds provided by student fees to the senior class so that it may continue their efforts to raise money for the senior class gift, which in turn will give the funds it has raised back to the school. The SA effectively voted to allocate the funds students have paid to the school to patch up its own mistakes. If this same scenario happened to any other student organization on campus, they would not have the opportunity to dip into the money the College has required students to pay as part of their tuition. Given the already high cost of attending this institution, these misgivings certainly are not helping.
While the incident of lost funds may seem insignificant, the SA’s decision to use funds collected from the entire student body to correct its mistakes is a larger problem. The $1,920 moved from the SA’s reserve is indeed a band-aid, because it patches up an undetermined money hole in the senior class programming budget. I hope the SA uses this situation as an opportunity to ensure that its funds are more properly accounted for, but this is the second year in a row funds have been reallocated to subsidize the organizational mishaps of the Student Assembly. Last year, there was a Senior Bailout Bill to help alleviate the “turnover” issues the senior class was experiencing. Given these two instances, it seems that the precedent has been set that the SA is comfortable with utilizing its excess reserve of funds provided by the College to fix any sort of organizational error, which is very troubling to me.
This is not to say that I would wish upon the senior class that their events and programming be impaired due to a lack of funds, but the underlying issue of indiscriminately utilizing the money provided by the general student body to make up for theft caused by weak internal controls is not acceptable. Without learning the lesson the hard way by having to deal with a budget shortage, the possibility of taking meaningful action to ensure such mistakes do not occur in the future seems much less likely. The SA is moving toward creating a habit by which their reserves can be accessed for any host of reasons, and this mismanagement of funds negatively impacts the entire student body.