Through Emerald reporter Sam Stites’ reporting, we now know both that the University spent upwards of $1.5 million to send a posse of Ducks and Duck-related folks to Pasadena and that it was fully within its budget and expected costs to do so.
Beyond that, something that wasn’t mentioned in the story is that the University actually made quite a bit of money (about $2.1 million) in return on that investment.
So when we say that the University’s athletic department spent extravagantly, know that we are aware that it (A) was well within the budget it set for itself, (B) made money on the deal and (C) got attention to the school through going to the Granddaddy of Them All. It’s just that the breakdown of the budget that we got a hold of raises too many questions.
Following the money
First of all, the budget says it cost the department $123,851 to send 56 members of the “official party,” which was said to include faculty, athletic department members, etc. At the same time, it lists $220,107 to send 212 players and staff. The budget lists no reasoning for why it paid a little more than half as much to send about a quarter of the people. As Stites noted in the report Tuesday, the full budget was relatively average, but the line item budget, broken down, makes the situation more complex.
We get that certain administration members have things listed in their contracts, but that should have been included in the budget when these line items are so differently portioned.
Especially after following the power plays that happened on the floor of ASUO business. Athletic department representative Garrett Klassy attempted to stand ground with the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee, demanding a nearly $40,000 increase for the upcoming school year. The ASUO stayed true to the promise it made back in October and kept to no increase (with some minor budgetary housekeeping issues accounting for differences). Luckily the department seems to be accepting this.
This is good; we would certainly take exception if the athletic department fought tooth and nail on their request of ASUO to turn around and overspend it.
Greater transparency issues
But this just speaks to how important transparency is at a University level, and just how questionable the recent developments in transparency are. Wednesday, the Emerald reported that the University was changing its public records request system to remove the up-to-$200 fee waiver for requests. Basically, this means that the public records office has a potential excuse to not divvy out certain documents. ASUO President Ben Eckstein articulated this hypothetical to the Emerald.
The article said, “Eckstein fears small requests that should only take an hour may be drawn out so they last longer than an hour. He said, too, the policy could give administrators greater authority over which requests are exempted and which will be charged.”
We agree. And with an $88 million budget in the mix, the removal of such smoke screens are all the more crucial.
Considering these giant terms, we should be drifting closer to transparency, not opaqueness.