No Amount of Hocus Pocus Will Make These Problems Disappear

Wednesday of Week Three is upon us ? that magical time when the A.S. Council should be in the dying throes of a marathon meeting, bickering among themselves over how, exactly, to parcel out their colossal $2.9 million endowment.

Instead of your run-of-the-mill eight-hour meeting, however, we have $349,000 unaccounted for and an A.S. President who doesn?t appear to understand how the budget works. As if to add insult to injury, it looks like most of our student representatives still don?t know what?s going on.

Pay attention, council. This is the first big decision you?ve had to make so far, and the way this mess is turning out ? mishandling of massive amounts of funds, presidential snafus, dissent in the ranks and general obliviousness ? does not bode well for the coming months.

And our president?s attempts to magically transform the budget into some kind of coherency have not been going well.

This year, much like every year, A.S. Council started off with a budget of $2.9 million in student fees that they have the power to allocate. This year, exactly like every year, it is a key responsibility of the A.S. President ? our very own Wafa Ben Hassine ? to produce a solid budget that the council will bicker over for days before passing. It?s a time-honored tradition.

The first budget Ben Hassine put together left out about $145,000 in predicted expenses ? a sum meant to fund the salaries and benefits of the administrative staff that oversees the Council ? in addition to $117,000 worth of council stipends.

It is a sign of a bigger problem than simple mismanagement when the purported leader of 21,000 undergraduates can?t figure out where the money is going. But forgetting to carry the one and double check just how many zeroes are supposed to be to the left of the decimal point is still an honest, if huge, mistake. It?s her method of recovery that?s got us scratching our heads.

Ben Hassine was alerted to this discrepancy Tuesday night and was quick to respond with her next budget, releasing a new budget draft a mere five hours before the meeting. It had some interesting new numbers ? namely 250 additional students pulled from thin air that contributed a purely hypothetical $31,000 to the A.S. moneybags. The council?s estimated investment revenue was also increased by an arbitrary $52,000, with no explanation for where that money was meant to come from.

The whole thing was presented, glanced at and tabled. Whether the confusion was a product of the 250 imaginary undergraduates or the suddenly nonexistent staff benefits, tabling was the wise ? and probably the only ? choice. Sorting out this clusterfuck is going to take longer than even the most tiring council meeting.

And while this is by no means the first budget to be tabled, it may just be the first that?s been tabled without discussion.

There are some redeemers in this fiscal dramedy, namely a couple key councilmembers who knew enough to be puzzled over chunks of the budget suddenly vanishing. For the most part, however, we?re just left staring at our new president in disbelief.

Numbers ? especially ones representing large sums of money ? don?t just come out of nowhere, and the fact that they?re being conjured into existence so early on something so crucial is not a good sign.

Furthermore, Vice President of Finance and Resources Andrew Ang said he helped on the budget because our A.S. President was too busy studying for her LSATS. Setting aside for a moment the fact that neither the budget nor this life-altering exam come as a surprise (she?s known about the former since her election in April, and the latter happens exactly four times a year), there?s still the matter of the $10,000-a-year salary that we students cough up in the name of securing an effective head to our student government.

With a paycheck like that, it?s not too unreasonable to expect a work ethic to match.

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