On Sunday night, Chris Koegel ’01 wrote a widely distributed email notifying students that the Log was being closed because of a decision made by the administration. The issue at stake – when the Log would be open – is of course important, but it is not the key issue we see emerging from the ensuing debate. The problem with the Log exists because of an integral flaw in the current administrative system — that increasingly students are being asked to perform jobs that administrators should perform themselves.
To illustrate this point we think our readers should be aware of what took place in the Record office last night. A meeting was arranged with James Morehead ’01, chair of the Log Committee, in order to confirm details for a story that would run about the Log on Tuesday.
As planned, Morehead came to our office after having met with the Log Committee, but instead of discussing the details for our story with us he asked to make a phone call. From our office, Morehead called the professor who had been complaining about the noise at the Log and negotiated a deal that would arrange a room at the Williams Inn for her for Thursday nights.
Morehead then informed Todd Rogers ’01, College Council co-president, who had also come to our office after the Log Committee meeting in order to discuss the article with us.
Rogers called Dean Peter Murphy at home in order to discuss the proposal. As the Record board discussed the situation, it became clear to us that the key question was simple: Why was a group of students placed in the position of negotiating College policy with faculty members? What is most disturbing about this is that the College itself has sanctioned this inappropriate redistribution of power.
The governance of the Log is only one example of this devolution, which has been taking place over the past few years. The Log is only the most recent instance of a fiasco that has resulted in placing students in what amount to administrative roles.
In the last few years, students have been put in charge of Goodrich Hall and the Residential Improvement Committee (RIC). Both endeavors have, for all intents and purposes, failed.
They have failed not because the students serving on these committees are incompetent or negligent, but simply because they do not tend to have the wherewithal – the time, resources and/or administrative experience – to handle such rigorous tasks. The case of former Goodrich Hall Manager Ryan Mayhew ’01, who dedicated a great amount of time to his job but ultimately resigned his post serves as a good example of such a failure. College administrators manage the majority of student centers at other colleges; to give to a student a job that requires constant availability is unfair to all concerned parties.
Part of the College’s justification for placing students in control of Goodrich, RIC and now the Log is sheer proximity. Students best understand issues that pertain to students. Indeed, placing students in positions of authority does fit with the College’s overall residential philosophy of allowing students to control the spaces where they socialize. However, students holding positions of “administrative” power need considerable and attentive support. The current system does not properly utilize the administrative resources that exist. Rich Kelley, the recently hired Activities Coordinator, has taken on much of the load that running Goodrich entails, which is a start, but he is still underutilized in his administrative role.
The situation is complicated by the fact that most of these student-run committees feature a great overlap in membership. With the same people serving on both councils and support teams. Therefore, what is billed as a student-based governance becomes susceptible to the bureaucracy that is thought to befall administrative social committees.
It is interesting to compare these problem spaces with the Snack Bar, which might well be the most successful social space on campus. Students always know when the space is open and what to expect when they arrive. Not coincidentally, there are no students involved in the governance of the Snack Bar. This is not because student worker’s are not dedicated to their jobs, but a simple acknowledgement of the reality of the situation: as students, we have academic, social and extracurricular duties to fulfill, which make serving as effective administrators for organizations while attempting to complete course work is, remarkably difficult, if not impossible.
It is our opinion that the Activities Director, potentially with the support of a staff, should be the person who oversees student spaces and administers them for the long term. This could be done with the vital assistance of student committees that would help with the programming but would not be pushed into administrative obligations.