AUS discloses theft of $12,000 during Orientation Week


On Nov. 30, executives from the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) reported to the AUS Council the theft of approximately $12,000 of Orientation Week funds. 

The theft was discovered Sept. 1 by AUS VP Finance Marlene Benavides, who realized that an envelope with $12,000 in cash from Orientation Week registrations was missing.

According to Benavides, once she discovered the theft she alerted AUS President Jade Calver. Calver called McGill Security, who  advised Calver to call the police. McGill Security subsequently conducted an investigation.

AUS VP Finance Marlene Benavides said that the decision to withhold the information of the theft from the rest of the AUS council and from arts students was advised by the investigator of the theft. 

“Once it was clear that the investigation was inconclusive, we released the information to our students immediately,” she said.

Despite the theft, the AUS budget was not affected because the $12,000 that was stolen was part of the profit produced by Orientation Week, and would have been allocated towards the VP Events’ portfolio. Orientation Week produced a profit of approximately $6,000 in addition to the stolen $12,000. 

AUS insurance policy requires that executives don’t keep over $40,000 in the office, Benavides said. However, AUS executives have a personal policy not to keep over $10,000 in cash in the office.

“While this is never a problem during the year, Orientation Week is a time in which large amounts of cash are collected and deposited,” Benavides said. “It being the first day of school resulted in my inability to perform a deposit that day.”

Although the results of the investigation were inconclusive, film footage reviewed by McGill Security shows only students going in and out of the Arts Lounge, where the AUS office is located. A plausible hypothesis from AUS executives is that when an executive stepped briefly out of the office to and into the Arts Lounge, leaving the safe unlocked, a student took the money and left.

Michelle Reddick, President of the History Student Association, was present during the Council session in which the announcement was made, and described the feeling in the room as one of disbelief, but that council members were patient and respectful as Benavides explained the situation.

“When something like this happens and you know that a student took it and that precautions were taken and still the worst case scenario happened, you’re just like ah, this [is unfortunate], but there’s nothing we can do,” she said.

Some members of the council remain optimistic about the events that will follow.

“I believe that the steps that the AUS has taken and the manner in which they presented information was appropriate,” Justin Fletcher, AUS representative for the East Asian Studies Student Association, said. “I just hope that the mechanisms put in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again come into fruition.”

To prevent other incidents from happening, AUS is now stricter in its policy regarding the number of non-executive individuals allowed in the office to reduce traffic in and out, Benavides said. AUS also changed the alarm code of the office, is in the process of purchasing a new safe, and has instituted a policy of keeping the safe locked at all times, regardless of whether the President or VP Finance are in the office. 

“I would strongly suggest that they get a camera pointed at the safe,” Reddick said. “They said they hadn’t done that in the past because it’s a personal office… but they would never review that footage unless there’s an incident. It would be a safety net.”

“Best case scenario, the person who took it anonymously returns it. That would be awesome. Then we could return the money back to Arts students, and run some really cool events, or buy new resources,” Reddick said.  

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