Discount Tabs: Which Board Should Call the Shots?

Sofia Banzhoff

Lately, scraps of fact and fiction regarding discount tabs at the bar and tensions between the BarCo and the UCSA Boards have been floating around campus. But what exactly is the issue? What arguments do both boards have? Or is this simply about taking shots at the bar? No worries, the Boomerang plunged into UCU politics and did some investigating to get you the information you need to vote at the General Assembly.

Discount tabs are not mentioned in the official UCSA documents, the Statutes and the Policy Manual, which makes the matter a proverbial grey area. “Discounts evolved as a tradition, but are not formally part of the Association,” UCSA Chair Noam Auerbach says. Traditionally, BarCo Board members get a full discount on all bar products. A few years ago, the UCSA Board was given a partial discount and this year, the same discount was extended to ASC.

Upon being elected, the new UCSA Board evaluated the concept of discount tabs and decided that they should have the same discount as the BarCo Board. They provide three main reasons for this.

Firstly, full discount tabs would increase the Board’s visibility on campus. “We need to encourage the Board to be in the bar and be a part of social life on campus,” Auerbach says. According to him, each Board member spends a few hours there on one night a week, giving them a presence score of six out of seven. But how many of us go to the bar once a week and pay full price?

Secondly, Auerbach wants to use discount tabs to reward people who work hard for the Association. This includes the BarCo Board, but also the UCSA Board.

The third and main argument is related to the structure of organizations in general. “You don’t see it in any organization that bodies lower in the hierarchy are rewarded to a larger extent than those on top because those on top do more for the Association,” Auerbach says. “The people that have the final responsibility over decisions need to have the final say in them.” This is important for keeping the structure of how things work clear. Here, the main objective of the UCSA should be considered, specified in the Statutes (Art. 3.1): representing the interests of all members. So, is it in the members’ interest to model the UCSA as much after a real-world organization as possible, and is this truly what works best in our microcosm?

The BarCo Board refused to implement this decision. “We decided this because the Policy Manual gives us managerial power over the bar. We’re not denying the UCSA Board anything, but using the power we have been given,” Inventory Manager Jasmine Reggiani says.

So what are their arguments? “There should be a difference in discounts for the BarCo and the UCSA Boards because the UCSA Board already gets other benefits, for example the networking opportunities,” BarCo Chair Willem Mouton says. He also mentions the course load reduction, government subsidies, and the seventh semester. “We find these benefits to be completely justified, but question the addition of yet another,” Secretary Marie Gillesen says. “The tab is our only benefit and it is insulting that they want the same.”

According to her, the extent of discount should be related to what a member does directly for the bar. “Since we do the most, we should have the largest discount.” In line with this, BarCo Treasurer Steven Minke says that full discounts for the UCSA Board have no added value for the Association, whereas discounts for the BarCo Board do, as this encourages them to dedicate more time to the bar. “It is a big issue, because in a very indirect sense, it affects the money of the members,” as the bar makes fewer profits when more people are allowed to drink at buying price. “It would only add to their personal benefits, which, from our point of view, is an abuse of power,” Mouton says.

BarCo Board mentioned another issue: discounts are the only compensation they receive for the twenty hours a week each board member spends on ensuring that the bar runs smoothly.  According to Independent Body member Omri Preiss this cannot be used as an official argument, as that would be in conflict with the Policy Manual, Art. 26.3.

Illustration by Carlos Granados Martinez

With BarCo Board’s refusal, the problem became a matter of implementing UCSA Board decisions. Based on the Statutes Art. 15.2, the UCSA Board has a final say in committee matters. They used this right: BarCo was given a deadline to implement the discount before midterm break, which they complied with.

But both boards realized that to preserve their relationship, a compromise was necessary. Several options were on the table, including full discounts for BarCo Board members and semi-partial-quasi discounts for the UCSA Board, or putting the matter before the members at a GA. The latter was chosen as both considered it best for the Association to find a final solution and formalize it in the Policy Manual, especially since this has been a source of friction in previous years, too.

Now it’s up to the students’ vote to decide. And yet, the outcome depends entirely on what exactly we will be asked to vote on at the GA. The existence of discount tabs in general? Whether there should be different degrees of discount and who is entitled to them? The questions will be specified by the UCSA Board with the help of the IB and the Advisory Council, but according to Preiss, members can suggest agenda points during the approval of the agenda or propose a vote later during the GA. The UCSA Chair can refuse this.

Embracing democracy and all that. 


Policy Manual:

Art. 27.2: The Bar Committee Treasurer or other members of the Bar Committee board may be given specific power of attorney […] for the signing of tab or small sale contracts, at the discretion of the UCSA Board.




7 thoughts on “Discount Tabs: Which Board Should Call the Shots?

  1. Special thanks to the editors of Boomerang for representing both sides in such a structured way, it allows me to react to the UCSA’s arguments in a nice and orderly fashion 😉

    First argument, full discount tabs would increase Board visibility. Firstly, being in the bar does not necessitate drinking. If you don’t want to spend money, don’t. Secondly, if I’m not mistaken, visibility on campus a task included in the job description of a board. If you don’t feel like being visible during your board year, don’t run for the board – it kind of comes with the package. External incentives should not have to be provided.

    Second argument, discount tabs to reward people who work hard for the Association. I guess this is, in my opinion, the only argument which has something of a bite to it. Nevertheless, two points. Firstly, saying that hard work deserves a reward does not yet justify a full discount tab. That the Board should be rewarded for it’s hard work is something nobody will contend, but the way in which that happens is still up for debate. Secondly, there is already a partial discount tab in place. This, and other privileges held by the Board, already constitute a reward, so it’s not as if there’s nothing in place yet.

    Third argument, you don’t see any organization in which bodies lower in the hierarchy are rewarded more than the higher ones. Firstly, that is false. Gerrit Zalm is currently director of ABN Bank, which was nationalized by the Dutch government in the crisis and ears 750.000 yearly. A secretary general, the commanding civil servant in a dutch ministry, earns 132.500 euro’s a year. Both earn less than the prime minister, who earns about 125.000 a year. Secondly, even if it were true, it is not an argument in itself. Assuming your premise would justify any salary increase of the top of any hierarchical organisation, which of course would be unwarranted. An argument of this sort may (again, even if it were true, which it isn’t) make your case plausible, but it doesn’t justify it in any way.

  2. This discussion on the tabs is something that has been going on for years, and the only thing that everyone can agree on, and that there is no one good reason to have them. People generally seem to accept that both boards (and ASC) have discounts as perk. No real reason were ever agreed on (as the article shows).

    What students should think about is the bigger picture:

    1) Why is there no (and never has been) coherent pricing policy in the Bar? If the cost-price of a liquor/spirit is 75 cents, why does it sell for 2 or 3 Euros? (A 75 cent beer sells for 1 Euro). You can have a discount policy after a pricing policy.

    2) What kind of discount is reasonable? Is a policy of “everything for 75 cents” a good one? If the overwhelming majority of spirits/hard-liquor in the bar is bought by BarCo members on discount (this has been the case in previous years, perhaps it is not any more) is this in the interest of the members?

    3) It should be as clear as possible that the policy-making organ of the UCSA is the UCSA Board, accountable to the GA.

    1. Omri, I disagree with you on several fronts.

      To begin, there is a very good reason to have them (and in this I am going to defend BarCo, the organisation which keeps the beer flowing, stocks the special beers you enjoy at such a low price, and organizes and facilitates the parties you can enjoy on an extremely regular basis. These volunteers give up their time and their academic performance for nearly nothing. The only thing they then receive in return is this discount tab. They deserve something, in my opinion, for the work they do. It incentivises the work they do, because without them or the training they will give their successors, the watering hole will dry up. And no one wants that.

      1). You question the prices of the bar: the UCSA Bar, and the work of the BarCo Board members is a HUGE source of income for our Association. Try functioning as well as we do without the kind of money we consume. And thank the bar for a large portion of those funds. The prices already work for us, they shouldn’t be challenged.

      2). Again, my only response can be that the BarCo Board’s discount tabs are all they have as thanks for their work. Remember, there is no check from the government for them, nor a course reduction to ease their studies. If you go to the Bar, then it is in our interest to help out BarCo.

  3. In addition to the previously mentioned argument by Manuel, that the UCSA board should not need external incentives to be visible, let’s not forget that the UCSA already enjoys partial discount, giving them discount on beer, wine etc. I sincerely question the benefit of an increased visibility if this imperatively comes in pair with the (presumable high) consumption of liquor at the same time.

    Next to that, imposing an ultimatum, without any disclosure to the association is, in my opinion, worrisome. Even if technically the UCSA would have the right to do so, imposing personal rewards at the expense of the association’s budget, and enjoying them for at least 5 weeks before setting up a GA and let the association decide on the rightfulness of this implementation is, at least, disrespectful to the association as a whole. In my opinion it would have been graceful to await the decision made at the GA before implementing these tabs.

    Finally, it seems to me like a clear conflict of interest that this GA, where the UCSA board has to justify its actions to the association, is chaired by the UCSA board. The neutrality of the presentation of the arguments is left at the discretion of the UCSA board, a clear stakeholder in the outcome of the voting.

  4. I’m not going to go into the discussion too much, since most valid points have been made already. However, one thing that I would like to mention for BarCo, is that if the discounted bar tab is the “only thing” they get in return as Jesse pointed out, I ask you to tell me who you know that has the opportunity to “own”, run and manage a proper bar at the age of 18-22. This experience (which holds both for the BarCo board and with our 700 member association in mind, the UCSA Board) is something that should weigh in a lot more than any government funding, suit, discount bar tab or weekends. I’m not saying they shouldn’t get some of these perks, because to a certain degree, they are necessary. The point I’m trying to make is that if the only incentive for either boards is the perks they get, that is more worrisome than this whole discussion. By no means do I wish to imply that either board does this, but it might be good to think about it from that point of view for a second, and then continue with this discussion. It might offer a bit of perspective.

  5. That is by no means the same thing!! the UCSA is the proprietor (so the UCSA Board has the final responsibility and along with BarCo, the final say) of the UCSA bar, it is part of the association as a whole therefore making this a completely different thing. The mayor of a town doesn’t own the stores and bars that are in his town, in the example of the UCSA as a body, the UCSA Bar is part of the association. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I felt this needed to be corrected.

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