In a decision prompted by discontent with existing structure, College Council (CC) made the first moves last week to reform the application and funding process for new and existing student groups.
The expected changes are a response to broad criticism from within CC itself over the nature of current practices, encompassing a wide range of concerns about the viability of various groups on campus and their use of funds from the Student Activities Tax. “We realized that we weren’t critically looking at what various groups were doing once they got going,” explained Mike Tcheyan ’10, CC co-president. “Groups tend to get approved by default, and we wanted to really look at what these organizations could offer the campus.”
The effort arose out of ongoing efforts to clarify and streamline the CC bylaws, the comprehensive list of procedures by which the student government is run. Members of CC are currently working with Campus Life to pinpoint areas of improvement and possible hurdles. The updates may then be formally implemented when the assembled representatives vote on the revised statutes.
This action comes following an audit â€“ the second in two years â€“ of unused funds from defunct groups by CC Treasurer Rachel Hudson ’10, who has focused on the ad hoc system of funding approved groups. The Student Activities Tax is estimated to yield nearly $400,000 this year, distributed over as many as 80 active organizations and clubs.
Currently, prospective student groups must fill out an electronic Student Organization Application, available on the Campus Life Web site, specifying the goals, size and expected budget of the group. However, the criteria for CC’s decision were often confined to issues of funding, since only CC-approved groups are eligible for the Student Activities budget. “Our working definition of an ‘active group’ was basically one that was receiving funding,” noted Lizzy Brickley ’10, CC co-president. “A lot of groups go defunct really quickly, or overlap with existing ones in some way, and we want to make sure that these new groups have the organizational structure in place before they applied.”
One proposal currently under consideration would be to appoint a CC representative as an organizations coordinator to help fledgling clubs or groups get fully underway. Chief among these benchmarks are a mission statement or constitution, as well as a plan to ensure the club’s survival once the original founders have moved on. Another suggestion put forward is to require a specific plan for use of funds for presentation. “We’re going to make it really accessible,” says Krista Pickett ’13, Sage Hall representative. “We’ll create a template that they can follow for a better chance of success and longevity.”
The changes are expected to be finalized and put into effect over the next two weeks, with an updated and expanded application to be posted online. Voting on the measure is expected to be uneventful, with its widespread support from the representatives. CC members stressed that they did not want to increase the difficulties for applying students and instead were focusing on the benefits of a more streamlined approach. “It’s not our goal to prevent new groups from forming,” Tcheyan said. “We just want better, more sustainable new groups.”