In May, the President of Kellogg College’s Ball billed for £733 in meal expenses—more than double the amount billed for last year’s Ball President—even though he cancelled the ball at the end of Hilary term due to the pandemic, and much of the work was yet to happen.
As a token of appreciation for organising the ball, Kellogg’s MCR usually pays for the Ball President’s college meals during Trinity term, when the workload—both coursework and ball work—is most intense.
This year, the Ball President, S.U., cancelled the ball at the end of Hilary term because of the coronavirus pandemic. But according to Kellogg MCR’s finances, shared with The Oxford Whisperer, on May 17 he billed the MCR account for £733 worth of groceries—the majority of the £957 of expenses claimed in total for the abandoned ball thus far. (From the remainder, £40 went to the freshers fair ball table and £185 to marketing.)
A full term’s worth of Kellogg’s meals (excluding black-tie dinners), costs about £400. Last year, Kellogg College spent £323 on the Ball President’s college meals during Trinity term.
Last year’s Ball President, A.H., told The Oxford Whisperer that the MCR Committee had secured these meals from Kellogg College at the beginning of Michaelmas 2018.
She said most of the work for her ball occurred “between the end of Hilary Term and in Trinity Term.” And unlike this year, the ball had not been cancelled due to a global pandemic.
Most of the work for the ball last year occurred between the end of Hilary Term and in Trinity Term.
Last year’s Ball President A.H.
So why did this year’s Ball President, S.U., expense £733 worth of groceries, and why did the Ball Treasurer, D.F—who was also the MCR President at the time—approve it?
The Ball Treasurer and Ball President did not reply to The Oxford Whisperer’s questions. Asked for comment, the Dean of Kellogg College, A.R., said that the Finance Bursar is investigating but did not provide a timeline.
How the expense went through
The £733 expense was pushed through by D.F., who held the posts of MCR President and Ball Treasurer in tandem. She authorized the expenses without getting the approval of the MCR Committee.
D.F. directly appointed S.U. as Ball President, created a bespoke role for him in the MCR committee as Strategy and Development Officer, and also supported his campaign to succeed her as MCR President.
Together, they were the only MCR officers tasked with overseeing the Kellogg Commemoration Ball and its Ball Committee, according to the MCR Standing Orders.
According to evidence from Kellogg MCR’s finance spreadsheet, this year’s meals for the Ball President were listed as a ball expense; they weren’t listed as an MCR expense or provided by college on behalf of the MCR, like last year’s meals.
If the meals had been an MCR expense, they would have required the committee’s approval since they’re an expense larger than £250, as per the MCR Constitution.
But according to a former Ball Treasurer, ball expenses don’t require MCR committee approval as long as the total ball expenses stay within the college’s contribution of about £4000 and the revenue from the ball itself.
By listing them as a ball expense rather than an MCR expense, S.U. and D.F. might have bypassed the need for a vote by the MCR Committee.
Even then, The Oxford Whisperer could not find any college contributions towards the ball on the MCR finance spreadsheet as of yet, and making the matter more opaque is the fact that Ball Treasurer and MCR Treasurer both use the same MCR bank account and spreadsheet for their finances.
Answering a question about the election process at the election hustings, S.U.—who since became Kellogg MCR President—said that “a lack of transparency” in the committee would “undermine our democracy.”