By Andy Plewinski
Canisius Alumnus ’15
We are all taught that once we make a mistake, we should learn from the experience to avoid repeating it. As such, one of my favorite quotes is, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” I can think of no better maxim to describe the troubled history between Canisius College and The Travel Team, Inc. Since the partnership’s founding in 2012, student clubs have suffered persistent financial, planning, and communication problems. I ought to know. I was there for the first problem with Travel Team. As a member of the 2012 Canisius Mock Trial Team, we planned a trip to Pittsburgh, PA. We made hotel arrangements and bus reservations. In submitting all of this to Travel Team, we were assured that they would make reservations, and they even gave us an emergency phone number to call if we had issues. But upon arrival in “Steelers’ Country,” the hotel had no reservations for our group and our repeated attempts to use the emergency phone line went, literally, unanswered. Stories like this are too numerous to repeat here. Let us operate under the assumption that there are many. The real problem worth discussing is why the issue remains relevant today.
When Canisius administrators forced this policy on all student groups- without even asking- the “talking points” were twofold. First, The Travel Team would provide lower prices after a few years because of repeated use of airlines and hotels. Second, The Travel Team’s “emergency” precautionary procedures would provide “peace of mind” to students and staff alike. Both promises were, and still are, wholly empty. The results were not surprising. Even Canisius administrators knew this was a bad deal for students when they voluntarily waived the mandatory reservation fee after certain student senators repeatedly raised concerns of wasted student tax dollars. That is why, after reading the article two weeks ago about how the Travel Team continues to be the cause of wasted funds and student frustration, I thought this might be a good time to consider a core Jesuit value: learning from experience. And because we have had the better part of a decade to learn and experience, it is clear that the College should end its relationship with The Travel Team.
The way I see it, both students and administrators have much to gain by ditching The Travel Team. The student body- specifically the Undergraduate Student Association’s student Senate- could use The Travel Team issue as a way to show their continued service for the student body. Not only would it be a good talking point for the next election cycle, it is simply the right thing to do. The Senate cannot build a new parking garage or tear down what used to be Wehle, but removing a policy that continues to harm the student body is both realistic and worth fighting for. Besides, I am sure the Senate could use a reprieve from the continued rumblings surrounding the griffin statue and the recurring theme of budget appeals.
Further, the voluntary separation of the College from the Travel Team could accomplish three important goals for Canisius administrators. First, it would show that they are in touch with the trepidations of the student body. In the face of crumbling College infrastructure, showing concern for issues that students consider important is a great image enhancement. Second, Canisius administrators could alleviate fears of putting profits ahead of the student experience. Simply put, leaving a policy that chronically wastes student tax dollars in place is the equivalent of having a mustard stain on your necktie. Third, giving control of student travel planning back to the student body would be a measurable show of trust. College students – despite what anyone might think – are remarkably resourceful. They are smart, capable and worthy of support. Forcing vendors like The Travel Team on the student body belie these traits and demonstrate a lack of institutional confidence.
It does not matter which side acts. The truth of the matter is that The Travel Team’s connection with Canisius College has been a measurable failure on everything that they promised. In short, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Our six-year history reveals a consistent record of miscommunication, over-expenditure, and financial waste.
To the student body: your time to act is now. Raise your voice over something you have every right to see changed. To quote J.G. Wentworth (for the most part), “it’s your money, and you want it [back].”
To the administrators of Canisius: get out ahead of this issue. Eliminate the unfortunate irony The Travel Team presents. You have much to gain by doing so.
The time to talk is over. Act.