Macalester's student orgs need a better way to pay

By Campus Community

Keaton White
It was over a year ago that the MCSG granted the Macalester Martial Arts Club nearly $6,000 in capital funds to purchase equipment with which to provide classes and practice capabilities, and it was not until just before spring break this year that the equipment finally arrived.
We had originally filed the order last year, beginning with eight martial arts mats. These arrived within a few weeks, and we then placed an order for the pads, wooden weapons and other pieces of equipment we wanted so that we could provide the best and safest training environment possible. These did not arrive until late February of this year. Why, one might wonder, did it take so long for these things to get here?
Towards the end of last year, the person in charge of our order moved to a different school and with her went any knowledge of our purchase order. Imagine our shock upon our return to Macalester when we discovered that nothing had arrived and no one knew anything about it. Milton Koch and I spent more than a month talking to people, looking for records and walking around campus to see if it had been delivered without anyone knowing. It took until October before anyone was able to tell us that no one had actually made the order, and any record of the order form was gone.

From there, we had to get the funds reinstated by the MCSG, which took about 20 minutes, and then we had to recreate the order, confirm it with all the executive members of the club and then file it. We filed it around the end of October, hoping to see our stuff arrive sometime in early November.
This was after we had tried to use Allison Greenlee’s Macalester debit card, which existed for this purpose. The order was too large for the card, and so we had to make it a purchase order. This is where the real fun starts.

Unfortunately, something went awry and our order was not made for several weeks. Allison, Milton and I worked day in and day out to find out where it was, and eventually discovered that it had become tangled up in bureaucracy somewhere. We called the company, called the business office, faxed the forms, had them approved and still managed to make it to lunch. This was just before Thanksgiving break.

When we got back from the break, nothing had arrived. We thought that maybe the shipping was taking a while, and let it be. After a week or two, Allison and I got together to try and figure out what was going on, had the forms re-faxed, called the company to make sure that they knew about the order and generally had everything in place. Milton and I assumed that from here, nothing could go wrong and sat down to focus on finals.

Upon our return to Macalester after winter break, we learned that nothing had come and the company had no record of our order (odd, that). We repeated the process about three more times, faxing forms, calling the company and placing purchase orders until we thought that we had finally succeeded. A week or so later, one box arrived with a single metal ring in it (for training, of course). Two days later, a large box full of books and DVDs from Amazon.com arrived, and that was the last thing that came for several days.

After a while, I called the company to find out what the holdup was. Turns out that the ring was the only thing they had on record. Nothing else was coming. I marched over to Allison’s office and when I found that she was in a meeting, I walked over to the business office. There, after briefly summing up the story and my frustration, I told them I wanted to refax the forms. We faxed them off and I thought that was it. I called the company and asked them if they had received the documents. “No,” they said. All right, fine.

I was finally put on the phone with the person in charge of purchase orders (keep in mind, this is probably the twelfth time we’ve called), and was given her direct line. Milton and I returned to the business office and had them fax the order to this new line.

I then proceeded to call four times within the next two hours to make sure that they had it. Around dinnertime, I received a call from them saying that they had the order and that it would arrive in three to five business days. Hallelujah.

We now have our order, and are putting it to good use over one year after the money was given to us. Now, can we all just sit back and imagine how much easier that would have been if we had had access to a debit card for the MMAC with which we could have made this purchase?
I cannot begin to express how infuriating this process has been and how much bureaucratic nonsense we have had to work through just to make one order. It may not seem like much, but Brittany Lewis’s campaign promise to get student organizations individual debit cards is what I see as the best possible option for individual orgs. The amount of paperwork it would cut down on, the ability to monitor how much an org has spent and how much it has left to spend – oh, the possibilities and joy it could bring.

Because of what we experienced (and trust me, this is the short version of the tale), I fully support this idea. I never want to have to work that hard to make one simple order again, and I do not want any other org leader to have the same problems that we had. Anyone who has been involved in running an organization, and even those who have not, can appreciate the beauty of this idea.

I really hope that it becomes reality. I support Brittany regardless of this point, but truly, this is probably one of the more easily overlooked yet important topics in the race (for me, at least). When next year begins, I hope that Brittany is presiding over the MCSG and that she brings these debit cards to us, because this kind of debacle does not need to happen again.