Change is good, especially when it comes from within. Campus Life’s plan to restructure its office is a mark of the self-reflection and self-evaluation vital for an office that continues to evolve and reconsider its role on campus. Its initial proposal to revamp event-planning, while also a display of self-reflection, however, seems less promising and, if implemented, may compromise some of the dynamism and diversity of student events.
The most significant and practical change within the Office is to cut a CLC position and reassign the remaining three as two residential life coordinators (RLCs) and one student activities coordinator (SAC). The two RLCs will each be responsible for two neighborhoods, while serving double duty, one as queer life coordinator and the other as a community engagement coordinator.
This is a move in the right direction: Campus Life is recognizing the need to reorganize its office, and is taking the initiative to do this. The reduced number of positions and reallocation of duties will streamline many of the Office’s responsibilities, while also appropriately assigning one entire position solely to student activities. This self-definition is also helpful for students seeking aid from Campus Life, as they will be able to more easily find the Office employee suited to handle their needs.
Unfortunately, the event-planning proposal is less ideal. Campus Life’s proposal for the new process demands that all students who wish to plan any event, ranging from a bonfire to an all-campus concert, attend a number of training sessions at the beginning of the semester. A student wishing to throw an all-campus event with alcohol would be required to take four-hours worth of classes, in addition to all the hours of preparation required to throw a party – all for an event that would last significantly less than the time required to become “qualified” to organize it.
This essentially turns event planning into a specialty, as only the truly dedicated and those intending to throw more than one event will be willing to rack up the classroom hours for a party. It may discourage the spontaneity and hands-on approach that characterize so many of the campus’ quirky parties (this week’s Togaspank 2008, for example) and, furthermore, de-emphasize the importance of catering events to different social scenes. Worse yet, potential party planners may abandon official channels in order to throw their events and thus wreak more havoc than Campus Life currently deals with.
Different organizations have different structures and different purposes, and massive training sessions will not effectively cater to their needs, the way more individual attention would. Furthermore, groups specialize in particular events. WCFM, for example, has outgoing officers train incoming officers so that the new staff knows how to put on a concert. WOC has a board made up of upper- and lower-classmen who learn from each other about organizing and running trips safely. With the exception of neighborhoods and new clubs, most organizations have leaders who successfully pass on the institutional knowledge gained while serving in their positions.
Granted, event planning has become more complicated in recent years, and sometimes students need a bit of formal training. But not the kind that Campus Life is proposing. The proposed training courses assume all students are equal in their ignorance of issues of organization. Yes, some students are clueless, but others bring plenty to the table. What Campus Life doesn’t realize is that it is distancing itself from the diverse assortment of leaders who need its advice. If basic, intensive standardized instruction becomes the centerpiece of the Campus Life program, the conventional leaders will find the new program too simple, while potential leaders will find it overwhelming. Then a certain other set of leaders will be aided by the Office, while the rest will be left to work outside the system.
Campus Life needs to realize that there are other, effective ways to disseminate information. They need to choose the way that allows students the most flexibility in terms of when and how much information they can ask for. When students want and need structured information about balancing a budget or financing event, Campus Life has the resources to inform them. But rather than hold a long informational session, Campus Life can put this information in a more concrete form that’s always accessible, such as on a Web site or in a pamphlet, and offer extra services such as office hours. Best of all, there will be a new point-person to personally relay all of this information to students – the Student Activities Coordinator. In creating the position, Campus Life may have already solved more problems than it thinks.
By vesting its energies in a massive training program, Campus Life is essentially ignoring some of its best resources: people. In a school of 2000 students there’s little excuse for passing off the onus of event training on a large seminar. Now, we don’t mean to insinuate that Campus Life, by offering a four-hour training program, has somehow become an impersonal machine. But it certainly seems that it’s trying to minimize student-to-Office personnel contact. This may save time on Campus Life’s end; it won’t solve event-planning questions on ours.