Who’s team are they on anyway?

By Darby Ratliff
Opinion Editor

In October, I traveled to Jersey City for an Alpha Sigma Nu conference. My first experience organizing travel for a club (if you could call it that, considering that I was the only one), I flew in and out of the Newark LIberty International Airport, where I would meet the President of Boston College’s chapter of the Jesuit Honor Society. Naturally, I looked up my flight through Kayak, trying to find the best deal so I could keep the student contribution at its minimum (I’m a poor college student after all), but it was difficult to coordinate within the conference start and end times. However, I eventually did chance upon a late enough flight out of Newark, not realizing that I wouldn’t be able to buy the ticket myself anyway.

Elaine informed me that the Travel Team, the official travel agent of the College, would in fact be booking my flight for me, as they supposedly would be able to find the best deal. However, I knew that the only itinerary that worked for me was one slightly more expensive than the other trips offered for that day. I tried to emphasize to Elaine the fact that my flight would need to leave at least an hour and a half after the conference, giving me time to go through security. I even emailed her the agenda for the weekend so that she could send it to the Travel Team.

Within the next two days, I received my official boarding information from the Travel Team, placing me on a flight two hours before the conference ended. I called the Executive Director’s office and asked whether or not this would be a hindrance, and thankfully, she wasn’t concerned. However, I was sufficiently annoyed that the Travel Team, while knowing my agenda for the weekend, still didn’t book me on a flight that I had specifically talked with the VP of Business and Finance Rich Kubiak about so that I could stay the entire time, even though this itinerary in particular was more expensive. Students should be able to provide our travel agent with time parameters without having to worry about whether or not they’ll have to awkwardly duck out of a conference or other trip early.

A subsidiary of Rich Products, the Travel Team is notorious on Canisius’ campus, and it has not gone without notice. Less than a month ago UNITY, when they traveled to IggyQ at Georgetown University, ran into some difficulties with their hotel booking because of the Travel Team. Even before that, the agency gave the organization a number of problems concerning booking, arriving at, and traveling between the conference and the hotel. Depending on particular circumstances of trips, the Travel Team is able to levy costs for their services; something that, though perhaps normal for business clients, is an unwarranted cost for students (and faculty members) who could easily book a trip on his or her own. In a letter written to the Travel Team two years ago, Andrew Plewinski ‘15  said, “Our members and organizations are obviously not large corporations with large sums of revenue on hand; they are merely student clubs.”

My solution? Simple–it’s the same thing I say about Campus Ministry when I give tours: it’s there if you need it, but you aren’t required to go anywhere near it. Granted, booking travel requires a lot more issues of liability. I understand that, but there also has to be a level of accountability for students. We’re legal adults (at least most of us), and booking hotel rooms should be able to be done with the help of Student Life, especially being that advisors are going as well. That’s exactly the purpose of a faculty advisor: aiding students in the administration of the club when

Clearly, student tax dollars add into that liability, given that technically that money is no longer individual property of the respective students paying the fee (I could give a lecture on taxpayer standing in court based off a semester in which I learned more than I ever wanted to about it), but this concern could easily be allayed simply by changing the phrasing on the liability waiver that everyone has to sign anyway. The Travel Team only began working with Canisius in 2012, and so it’s not as though students have always been robbed of their autonomy in traveling. If students feel that they need help booking and their faculty adviser is unable to help, that’s when the travel team should step in–without an extra fee. At the very least, the policy should not apply to groups under a certain number of travelers, being that many airlines are able to accommodate up to eight or 10 people at one time. It’s when groups of 10 or more want to travel together that it becomes more difficult and a travel agent, in some cases, could be necessary.

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