Social leaders introduce new planning structure to streamline event programming diversify activities

In a move that drastically restructures the current funding and organizational structure for social planning at the College, the leadership of the campus’s social planning groups have unveiled plans for a new organization called All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) that creates a coherent structure for cooperation between existing planning groups, eliminates the Byzantine funding structures that students must currently navigate to organize events, simplifies the organizational process for planning social events and facilitates input from the student body in creating a diverse social calendar.

The plans were developed by the leadership of the Student Activities Council (SAC), the Log Committee, Goodrich Committee, the Social Chairs, the Dean’s Office, the Office for Campus Safety (Residential Life Fund) and the Activities Office. According to the plans released to the Record and introduced to the College community in a town hall-type meeting on Sunday night in Goodrich, ACE will address the many shortcomings of social planning on campus. At the meeting, the plan’s architects presented a position paper that argued for drastically restructuring the campus’s social planning structures. The audience was composed of approximately 25 students, most of whom are involved with social planning at the College in some way.

At the meeting, which began with a short presentation outlining the proposal’s main points by SAC Treasurer Drew Newman ’04 and then was opened up for questions, the leaders of current social planning bodies highlighted five major problems with social planning at the College: confusing organization, illogical funding for SAC events, an inability for many students to have direct input into the planning process and express their diverse interests and tastes, low morale in social groups and a lack of communication between the many social groups.

Currently, social structures have grown separately at the College, with little thought on how they can complement each other. The many groups, like College Council (CC), the Minority Coalition (MinCo), SAC and several smaller entities all have jurisdiction over various types of social events. Students with ideas for social events are forced to meet with many different groups for funding, and no centralized structure for actually organizing an event exists. There is also a lack of centralization for disbursing money for social programming. Consequently, social groups like SAC must often ask for money from CC to augment their other sources of money and compete for funding with other important interest groups – there are no funds currently earmarked for social planning alone.

This arrangement adversely affects social life on campus and creates friction between social planning groups and advocacy groups, which must all compete for the same funds despite having legitimate needs. Furthermore, since bodies like SAC do not know how much money they will receive over the following year, they cannot book large-scale events early or participate in discount deals for the following year. Newman noted that SAC had initially wanted to bring the group Weezer to campus, when their price was within SAC’s budget range. However, SAC did not know if it would have the money later in the year. When it was determined that money was available, Weezer’s price had doubled, placing it well outside SAC’s budget.

According to materials released to the Record, SAC leadership has found that the diverse tastes of students are not accommodated as well as they could be, since SAC members must be appointed by the CC or elected. Only a limited number of students are given opportunities to play integral roles in the planning process, and having a few people trying to cater to the tastes of the entire campus is impractical. Such a structure, in which there is little continuity from year to year, also makes the planning process inefficient.

The low morale within social planning groups is another source of inefficiency. To illustrate his point, Newman asked the audience who actually had fun while organizing events. Few raised their hands. Newman also mentioned that it is difficult to get enough people to spread planning work around.

“If you look at social planning, seven or eight people do 95 percent of the work,” said Newman. “It’s not good for us, and it’s not good for the campus as a whole.”

Since the planning process is so tedious and complicated, stressed Newman, students have few incentives to take an active part and volunteer for jobs. Newman and Josh Burns ’02, SAC chair, also stated that since SAC has no discretionary budget, it couldn’t spend money for refreshments on its own staff.

Aside from morale, the position paper focused on the general lack of communication between the various social groups and an undeveloped advertisement scheme. Publicity is essential for social events to be successful, and current funding and organizational structures make publicizing events difficult for organizers. No centralized social calendar or formal structure for facilitating interaction between the different social groups exists, which further detracts from social offerings on campus.

After outlining the current problems, the presenters suggested that enacting the ACE model could solve them.

The proposed ACE constitution makes three major changes to the current situation. The first change involves the creation of four specific groups mandated to oversee different aspects of social life at the College. The Campus Concerts Group “shall serve the student body by producing a diverse selection of campus concerts, small and large.” This group is essentially a redefinition of part of SAC’s charter. The General Entertainment group will produce “a variety of events such as weekly films. . . variety performers, non-traditional events,” and large-scale trips to major cities and off-campus events. This group will take care of the rest of the current SAC’s duties. The third group is the Social and House Events group, which will produce a variety of weekly social events centered on houses and will interface closely with house-based organizations. Lastly, and the Student Centers Programming group will organize regular events such as the Log’s Thursday night dance party and First Fridays@Goodrich.

The chairs of these committees, along with the ACE Advisers, ACE President, ACE Chief Financial Officer, ACE Communications Officer, College Council (CC) Representative, MinCo Representative and Frosh Council Rep, will make up an executive committee whose purpose is to ensure that events are organized smoothly and with much cross-group interaction and consultation. This committee, which would meet weekly, will address the problem of communication and incoherence in current planning structures, and simplifies the planning process as s whole.

The second major change involves eliminating the need to apply for membership on a committee. Instead, all ACE groups will have open membership, which means that any student is permitted to participate. “We see no reason to limit membership,” said Burns. “If you want to join, you’re a member and if you show up [enough], then you’re a voting member.”

The stipulation included in the ACE constitution requires that all may attend meetings, but only students with attendance records of 80 percent or greater will have voting rights. However, the rule will not be applied to incoming first-year students until S
eptember of October, since it takes time for new students to decide on their interests and activities. The plan’s architects believe that opening up membership will give students an incentive to attend meetings and take an active role in the planning process. Open membership should also address issues of diversity, in racial and ethnic terms as well as in differences in tastes.

The third major change is a redefinition of funding allocated for social planning. The total ACE fund has been projected to be approximately $204,000. Furthermore, the ACE Chief Financial Officer would be constitutionally required to post updated expenditure sheets online for public viewing. Accountability is thus built into the funding and organization of the planning process. The proposal suggests that the ACE budget be funded from various sources. The largest sum from a single source is the $100,000 requested from CC, which equals 38 percent of its current budget. The CC General Fund is financed by money from the Student Activities Tax (SAT), which is paid by each student at the College. This figure was developed after looking at the amount of CC money spent on social events over the past few years. In order for this money to be transferred, CC must pass a bylaw to approve the transfer.

“I show that . . . in CC Year 2002 (4/1/01-3/31/02), CC indeed spent 38% of the SAT on all campus social events,” said Newman in an email. “. . .in the previous year, CC spent 42% of the SAT on all campus social events. Therefore . . . we are not asking for an increase in funding.”

The proposal stresses that the figure being asked is simply a lump-sum payment of a conservative estimate of what CC spends on social events anyway, and simply streamlines the planning process. Instead of ACE and its constituent groups having to apply to CC for each event, the proposed constitution calls for the passage of a bylaw by CC requiring that each year’s CC formulate ACE’s allocation for the next year based upon historical expenditures.

The lump-sum transfer will set a hard figure for ACE to work with and will avoid the problems of competition for funding with advocacy groups. Also, by having the money approved, ACE will be able to pursue its program development without take up CC’s time with specific funding requests. According to Burns, the upshot will be a more diverse and event-filled schedule. The materials released to the committee stress that ACE would not seek any more funding than is normally spent on social planning. Under the new structure, students will no longer have to visit several different bodies in search of funding.

“It’ll be one-stop shopping,” said Newman, adding that everything, from funding to logistics will be dealt with at one time, through ACE.

$24,000 of House Entertainment Funds and $80,000 from the administration makes up the remaining $104,000. These funding sources have traditionally been used for social planning, but have been spread out over SAC and other social planning bodies. Since the ACE proposal has the official blessing of the Dean’s Office and other sources of funding, consolidating the $104,000 is not anticipated to encounter opposition.

However, the $100,000 from CC appears is developing into contentious issue. The plans effectively remove CC from the social planning process. Furthermore, CC members have expressed resistance at specifically including the percentage of the General Fund allocated to ACE. According to Newman, as of press time, CC members were planning to substantially revise the bylaw without consulting the plan’s architects. Many CC members appear apprehensive to pass any bylaw at the present time.

Newman said that initially, the CC officers and ACE architects decided that CC needed more oversight of the amount of money transferred.

“The gist of revised bylaw state[d] that in November/December/January (CC needed to determine the date) the CC leadership would meet with the ACE leadership to review the previous years finances and activities (which of course would already be publicly posted online and available for all to see),” said Newman. “Then, the CC leadership would recommend a percentage of the SAT be allocated to ACE for the following academic year. Also, a sentence would be written into the bylaw stating that historically 38 percent of the SAT has been allocated to all campus social events.”

Now, however, the outcome of the CC money transfers and consequently of the ACE proposal is unclear.

The proposal has attracted praise from many corners, however. Nancy Roseman, dean of the College, was effusive in her support for the proposal.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “I think in the last two years we’ve been really focused on trying to focus student programming. This is a way to do that more formally. I hope people appreciate how much work these people do.”

Burns echoed the position paper in when he said that the proposal definitely would be refined. “It’ll be challenging, but it can’t be any worse than it is now,” he said.

“We realize that this is not a perfect document, but we’re very excited,” added Newman, who hopes to receive input from interested students to further hone the ACE concept. “We’re totally behind this proposal.”

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