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ASUC Senate incapable of managing Cal Lodge

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APRIL 18, 2014

The ASUC Senate recently hired two MBA candidates at the Haas School of Business to help it create a business plan that will bring its Lake Tahoe-area lodge out of disrepair and into the black. It’s an encouraging step to correct the senate’s yearslong mismanagement of the property, but until the student government gives up direct day-to-day oversight of the lodge to a full-time professional, the problems plaguing it are unlikely to end.

The Cal Lodge is a source of pride for the ASUC Senate, which claims to be the only student government in the nation to own property. It’s also a great resource for the campus community and student groups, since the lodge can accommodate large groups at low prices. But its resourcefulness has been limited over the past few years, as deferred maintenance and poor marketing have resulted in chronic yearly deficits and low turnout.

Likely because of the massive annual turnover of the ASUC Senate as well as senators’ general inexperience managing a business profitably, they have failed to improve the lodge’s profitability and have done little to address what have become pressing maintenance problems. The ASUC acts according to no long-term plan — each new senatorial class discovers and attempts to solve the lodge’s financial issues in its own way, with little consideration to past years’ efforts.

In that sense, the creation of a long-term business plan with the help of the Haas students is necessary if the property is to remain under the ownership of the ASUC. But many of the problems endemic to direct management and control by annually elected student representatives will not be solved as long as the Cal Lodge is managed primarily by the senate. Even now, as Executive Vice President Nolan Pack’s office spearheads an effort to restore the lodge to profitability and usefulness, recurring difficulties regarding coordination and communication have re-emerged.

Pack claims that the ASUC shut down the Cal Lodge to visitors in February. But the property’s on-site manager, Dan Borge, is still taking reservations. And the ASUC hasn’t renewed its contract with Borge since the last one expired in 2011. Instead, both Borge and the ASUC have been operating under the conditions of the old contract, but that has left quite a bit of room for uncertainty. Even with a coherent business plan, this type of miscommunication indicates that the senate’s inability to manage the lodge is a much broader problem.

The senate should forfeit direct day-to-day management of the Cal Lodge in favor of utilizing a committed professional in the ASUC Auxiliary to do the job. The senate doesn’t need to surrender its ownership of the lodge entirely, and it should still conduct oversight of its operation. But a full-time staff member with applicable management experience, who isn’t subject to the turnover of the student government, would be better suited to implement the new business plan.

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APRIL 18, 2014