Formal charter for Motor Coach needed

The unprecedented $11,000 profit turned by the College Council Motor Coach Service (CCMCS) this year has raised questions about the accountability of the business. Though described on its website as “a wholly-owned, independent business of the Williams College Council,” Drew Newman ’04, director of CCMCS, notes that the business has no formal relationship with College Council (CC), but rather an affiliation based on oral agreements and mutual friendship. According to this informal arrangement, CCMCS uses CC’s name, and CC oversees its activities to ensure that it serves the interests of the student body. The lack of a written charter formalizing this arrangement is concerning, however, particularly in light of the recent profitability of the business. Since it is impossible to determine before tickets go on sale the number of students who will utilize the service, ticket prices can be set too high, creating a profit. The question of what to do with this money is left up to CCMCS’s director.

This year, Newman has decided to offer students their share of the profit based on the number of tickets they bought this year, a sum that would amount to $3 per ticket reserved. Students will be offered the choice of having this sum credited to their term bill, or instead allowing CCMCS to donate half the money to the CC General Fund and half to the Lehman Community Service Council. Though this solution seems reasonable, the potential for abuse of CCMCS profits in the future makes the drafting of a written charter defining the operational parameters of the business essential. Newman has himself expressed the need for a charter, and plans on developing formalized guidelines governing the service’s operation. We suggest that CCMCS officers consider several issues in developing the charter. The document must formalize CC’s role as an overseeing body, responsible for ensuring that the business continues to serve student interests. Perhaps more urgently, the charter must make clear that CCMCS profits belong to the student body and must formulate clear guidelines for the disposal of profits beyond what is necessary to cover the next year’s operating costs.

The option of accepting a refund must always be offered to students. Newman’s idea of giving students the choice to donate their small rebate towards specified organizations that benefit the student body and local community is commendable. To prevent recipient organizations from capitalizing on the busy nature of students’ lives, however, it is essential that CCMCS automatically reimburse students unless they indicate otherwise, not vice-versa, as is presently the case. An e-mail asking students to respond if they want to donate their share of the money to a named group organizations would suffice.

Since student choice is thus guaranteed, the identity of the recipient organizations need not be specified by the charter. At this time, Newman’s proposal seems appropriate. The obvious recipient is the CC General Fund, which allocates funds to various student organizations through FinCom. Many students are skeptical of this funding process, however, since its decisions are based on self-audits, a process that many groups abuse. Thus, the donation of the substantial sum to Lehman Council, an action that bylaws prevent FinCom from doing itself, seems acceptable given current student opinion. The way in which both organizations are viewed by the student body, however, may change with time, and CCMCS’s charter should allow for changes in the recipient organizations, to be determined by CCMCS’s executive director in conjunction with CC.

Ideally, the CC funding structure, which is charged with the allocation of the activity-tax funded CC General fund, would function efficiently enough to inspire student confidence in its ability to fairly disburse its funds among deserving student groups and club sports. In such a case, the entirety of CCMCS’s profits could be entrusted to CC, leaving the decision about how they could best be used to benefit the student body to the organization that is supposed to fulfil this role. The CCMCS charter must leave open the possibility of CC regaining its credibility on campus, in which case all profits should be channeled into the General Fund.