In what has become all too familiar a spectacle, College Council once again found itself embroiled in controversy this week. This time around, CC was fighting a two-front war, defending its questionable conduct in its suspension of funding to the Literary Review and club sports teams.
The thread connecting these two issues is that both illustrate Council’s lack of a coherent vision of its own role in the funding process.
In protracting an already overextended debate about Lit Review funding, CC passed initiatives that come into direct contrast with its own bylaws, amendable only by a two-thirds vote. In temporarily withholding funds allotted to club sports in order to “clear up” allegations of hazing, CC opened itself up to criticism – some from its own members – that it was serving as a mere mouthpiece of the Dean’s Office.
We should be prepared to expect controversial decisions from the Council: leadership necessarily entails dispute. The problem is that CC isn’t providing much leadership; it is too troubled with internal confusion.
The funding issues illustrate a confusion within College Council of its place in the funding process. FinCom is basically responsible for determining funding for campus groups established for over three years. In withholding its passage – usually assumed to be a rubber stamp – of FinCom’s decisions in the arts and sports subgroups, CC has attempted to retake control of a process it chose to delegate. However, the Council has not taken the time or consderation necessary to render knowledgeable decisions.
Were College Council to decide to handle funding issues itself it would represent an attempt to reassert itself as a financial watchdog, and a well-prepared one at that. Were CC to trust and respect the decisions of FinCom and the subgroups, it would represent a reasonable delegation of its power. By hedging its bets, though, CC is simply attempting to eat its proverbial cake and have it too. The result is inefficient, illogical government.
The confusion over funding is indicative of a much deeper confusion, within Council and certainly within the student body, about the legitimate role of Council on campus. Council by turns ignores and hides behind its bylaws and frequently loses sight of what we feel should be its real purpose: to be a representative and accountable advocate for student needs and concerns.
In past years we have lamented uncontested College Council elections, low voter turnout, general campus apathy. We refuse to blame these things on generational malaise. College Council exists for a reason, and it can make a difference. Heck, sometimes it even does. Council members are bright, motivated people who genuinely care about the school, and we do not wish to insult them (although we probably have, several times already). However, they need to provide us, their constituents, with a clear sense of purpose, and a clear means of achieving that purpose.