The Treasurer of Merton’s Winter Ball has released a report claiming that a “devastating” overspend means it now has a deficit of “almost £9000”.
Oliver Koo, a Classics student at the college, said in his report that the ball – held in Michaelmas – suffered from a lack of itemised budgets from some committee members. Ticket sales were also hampered by a technological glitch with the website, leading to what he called “significant opportunity costs”.
He said that the committee planned for an overspend in the budget for Production (lighting, sound systems, marquees) of around £5,000 but exceeded this by another £4,000. He also said that the lack of formal sponsorship dealt a “major blow to the organisation of our Ball”, and claimed that the only sponsorship eventually received was “informal” in the form of discounts.
The report was circulated to the JCR last weekend in advance of an OGM.
Koo said that confusion over whether refunds should be issued on request led to the Ball losing around £4000.
“I was told on multiple occasions by the Ball President that we were legally required to issue refunds to all those who requested them, in spite of my reluctance to issue any (I had actually asked whether we were in a position to refuse refunds),” he said.
“This meant that up to the day of the Ball itself I was paying back customers. According to the President, around 33 orders were refunded, approximately £4000 in total. Had we not made any of these refund payments, something that was well within our rights, according to our college’s Dean, we would not have incurred such a significant loss.”
The Ball, held at the end of November, saw Merton’s front quad turned into a Parisian marketplace. The Ball’s page on Facebook received 874 likes.
According to Koo, the running of the ball on the night “went well” and there were “few complaints”.
He also said that the “exact remit” of committee members should be clarified for future Balls.
“There should be a clearer explanation, whether in the SOs or simply in Committee meetings, about each person’s exact remit. This may have helped prevent the gross overspend in the production budget as I would have been in a better position to refuse the changes,” he wrote in the report.
“I believe that all the Committee members (with the exception of the Sponsorship Officer, who had to step down) worked extremely hard, both in the run-up to the Ball and on the night of the Ball itself: there was copious amounts of food, drink, and several different and unusual forms of entertainment.”
“It was a great shame that all this hard work was somewhat undermined by the financial issues encountered along the way,” he said.
The Ball encountered controversy last month when the Warden of the College, Sir Martin Taylor, apologised after Oxford residents who live almost a mile away claimed they could hear music from the college on the evening of the Ball.
Complaints were filed by a Liberal Democrat city councillor, and Sir Martin said in response: “It is certainly not my intention to allow Merton College to disrupt by noise or indeed any other fashion, the life of the citizens of Oxford.”
Joseph Hackett, a second-year History student and JCR Returning Officer, said: “It’s true that the Ball lost several thousand pounds, although this appears to have been due to a variety of smaller issues, oversights, and misunderstandings, rather than a single major blunder on anyone’s part, and it should not have a particularly serious impact on the JCR and MCR’s finances.”
“Hopefully, reforms to the Ball committee’s structure in the near future will ensure that future Merton Balls are not only a wonderful night for all who attended, but a success on the financial side too,” he added.
The Ball President and Merton’s Domestic Bursar did not respond to requests for comment.