By Janelle Harb
Club spending and budgets have been a consistently controversial topic at Canisius College since their inception. With limited funds to be distributed to clubs outside of their given budgets, the Undergraduate Student Association has an appeal system in which clubs can appeal for more money in addition to their budgeted amount. The Finance Board must then go through these appeals and decide on an amount to grant the club based on their appeal.
Within this budget system, student leaders must appeal for money for travel expenses via the Finance Board, as well as book all of their travel plans through an outside company known as The Travel Team, Inc. Travel Team is a locally-sourced, professional travel agency that has been in operation for over a decade. The company is responsible for booking flights and providing transfer transportation between airports and hotels, as well as ultimately booking the hotels for all travel regarding the school. Travel Team also receives a commission as a result.
Towards the end of September, the Canisius Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) submitted an appeal to the Finance Board to attend a conference in Tampa Bay, Florida and, according to school rules, had to use the services of Travel Team for travel plans.
“Eventually the Finance Board did make an allocation based on the quote that CEO had initially gotten from Travel Team about the cost of the flights,” said Jeffrey Spencer, Vice President of Business and Finance. “Then when they went back to Travel Team to book the flights, the price jumped up basically one-hundred percent.”
When receiving the final quote from Travel Team, the prices for the trip had more than doubled, signifying that an additional $2,608.30 was needed, thus bringing the total cost to $8,149.60.
CEO is just one of the many clubs and organizations that has run into problems when booking with the Travel Team. When Unity was attending the Ignatian Q conference in Washington, D.C. two years ago, the club had specified which hotel they would like to stay at. It was close to where the conference was being held, as well as where all the other attendees would be staying, but Travel Team had instead booked one across the city. Therefore, the members attending the trip had an hour-long commute to the conference using public transportation. As a result, Unity frequently missed parts of events. On this trip, members also had to pay out of pocket for travel expenses for an Uber car ride, all of which could’ve been avoided had Travel Team booked the closer, more convenient hotel.
Another instance was in regards to Unity’s trip just last year, in which Travel Team booked a limousine as transportation from the hotel to the airport, wherein Unity received an invoice for $800. The members were able to find an alternate, public route recommended by the conference, costing $2 a piece, thus promptly canceling the inordinate limousine order before the trip.
Also in regards to this same trip, the conference hotel had been offering a $110 flat rate for conference goers, and the Unity E-Board had notified the Travel Team of this deal a month in advance of the deadline. Unity then received confirmation from Travel Team that the hotel had been booked a day short of the deal, thereby missing it by 24 hours and costing an additional $960 that could have been avoided had the Travel Team met the deadline.
“If Travel Team seems to be pulling more money out of USA, that’s less money that can be distributed [to clubs] and used for other functions,” Spencer explained. “For right now, I’m going to try and mitigate the rest of prices going up, have more accurate information, try and make more timely decisions from the Finance Board, just be more faster and efficient in general.”
Due to these exorbitant expenses and price increases, The Griffin has to wonder what the value of booking through Travel Team is, and if this service is even necessary. In modern times, the use of travel agents has become relatively outdated as nearly all the components in booking a trip can be done with relative ease online. It is unclear why Canisius administration feels college students are incapable of booking plane tickets for a group. At the moment, The Griffin can only conclude at the present moment that giving club leaders–as well as their E-boards and advisors–autonomy would eliminate these extra costs.
The money that is being extraneously spent on extravagant transportation, mishaps in hotel bookings, and other seeming blunders could be going back into clubs, and allowing more funding for various events and trips. Instead, this money is going to Travel Team and the companies they work with to coordinate these trips. Every student pays tuition, which includes a student tax. Because of Travel Team, student tax dollars are being spent on avoidable expenses that could save the student body thousands of dollars. Currently, it is a mandate of College policy to use this company. The question students must ask themselves, is why?