Members of UB’s men’s rugby club couldn’t help but notice the signs plastered on the walls of their Motel 6.
“Be aware of human trafficking,” they read.
The Motel 6 was booked for the team by the Student Association (SA) while they were in Massachusetts for a set of games in November 2021.
“We had people sleep in the vans because they didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in the rooms,” Scott Hopkins, a junior mechanical aerospace engineering major and treasurer of the team, said.
SA has an emergency reimbursement policy for when clubs need to change hotels for safety reasons. Under the policy, clubs can book another hotel, and SA will reimburse them later.
“All parties in the approval process [SA Eboard and UB Campus Designee] will work together to process the expenditure and make sure the club is safe and can make it back to campus,” Sammi Pang, SA vice president, said in an email to The Spectrum.
This isn’t the only time the team has had issues with hotels that SA booked for them. During another trip in October 2022, SA charged the team $440 per room at a Best Western even though the team received a quote from the Best Western for $179 per room. Hopkins sent an email to the SA asking for clarification on why the charge was so high. He said he expected some fees with the SA’s recent addition of a travel agent, but nothing on the scale of the bill they received.
After Hopkins’ email to SA, a total of $400 was refunded out of their $3,067.05 bill. The team didn’t get clarification on what the upcharge was for.
“There was a misunderstanding with the person at the hotel,” Pang said. “They quoted them an individual rate, not a group rate, which led to expectations of a lower price.”
Pang also said there are “no set travel agent fees, it depends on when the hotel is being booked and where.”
A travel agent for booking hotels was put in place at the end of last year to help prevent clubs from paying “high upfront costs” when booking hotels on their own bank accounts, according to SA.
The rugby team’s problems go beyond hotels.
In August 2022, the rugby team reached out to SA to take the driving tests required to rent SA vans. The team needed the vans for a trip to Northeastern University in October. Hopkins said the team started the process early, knowing that SA can take a long time.
He emailed SA in September to tell them that all the eligible drivers on the team had filled out the necessary forms and were waiting to be scheduled for their road tests.
An SA representative responded to tell them that the organization had recently hired a new transportation coordinator, and the team couldn’t get their road tests done until the new transportation coordinator had been trained. A week later, the team was told the transportation coordinator was no longer working for SA, so they didn’t have anyone to take their road tests.
“Things that you would think would be easy to do take weeks,” Hopkins said. “It’s not at all student-friendly. It seems like they’re trying to fight us on everything that we do. It’s just not well run at all. And there’s a lot of agencies and departments within SA that don’t seem to be talking to each other. It makes everything very frustrating and complicated.”
In order to be eligible to use the SA vans, drivers must be 21 or older, fill out some paperwork and take a road test, which the transportation coordinator and vice president must sign. Pang said club members should be able to take the SA road test four to five days after they fill out a form. Vehicle request forms take about a week to be approved.
The day before they left for Northeastern, the team was told they could take their road tests. The approved members took their road tests at 4 p.m., missing practice.
“So it literally came down to the final hours,” Sean Hauptman, the club’s president and a junior criminology major, said. “After three to four months of planning this.”
The rugby team also experienced lengthy delays with SA while sorting out their head coach’s contract this spring. The team hired a new coach in January and had received SA approval on a contract that would pay the coach a $4,000 stipend for the spring season, according to Hopkins. Two weeks later, SA’s lawyer contacted the team, saying they needed to lower the stipend to $3,022.
Hopkins said the contract was finally approved in the beginning of March, more than a month after the team started the process.
“It comes down to us just having to take time out of our personal lives, our school and all that, and going to their office and just sitting there and spending time doing it,” Hauptman said. “It shouldn’t have to be that way.”
Both Hauptman and Hopkins reported that many of their requests to SA — which they’ve made weeks in advance — aren’t addressed until the last minute. They said that they have missed multiple practices to wait in the SA office until their requests have been put through and hardly ever receive a response from SA without sending a follow-up email or going into their office.
“Nothing is ever efficiently done,” Hopkins said. ”It’s a failure from top to bottom.”
Amy Maslin is a sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org