January 30, 2009

S.A. Halts Creation Of Student Groups

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The Student Assembly passed Resolution 21 yesterday by a 12 to 6 margin, calling for a temporary moratorium on the formation of new student groups. It will take effect next Wednesday and terminate on June 1, 2009.
In addition to the moratorium, Resolution 21 also created the Registered Student Organization Auditing Task Force. The task force will examine and create solutions to a number of issues currently associated with the vast number of student groups on campus, as well as issues with the registration and funding processes.
The resolution was sponsored by S.A. President Ryan Lavin ’09, Vice President for Finance Gregory Mezey ’09 and Vice President for Internal Operations Anthony Miller ’10.
The primary reasons for the creation of the resolution include the constantly expanding number of student groups on campus, the duplication and redundancy among many similar groups, the strain on space and resources that need to be shared amongst all the groups and the inefficient method of funding over 900 student groups on campus.
Representatives of the Student Assembly Finance Committee, Office of Assemblies and Student Activities Office met to discuss the matter weekly last semester. They concluded that the only viable plan of action was to stop the creation and registration of new student groups while examining the issues and searching for solutions.
One issue raised during yesterday’s meeting was over the rights of the S.A. to restrict students’ ability to create new organizations. One response claimed that the time of the moratorium — only one semester —would not be detrimental to the ability of a new group to form.
The other response to this issue was an amendment that was passed along with the resolution. The amendment stipulated that “registration of new student groups will be permitted under circumstances of special necessity as judged by the SAO.”There was concerned voiced over a potential group that would be constricted by a timeliness factor. For instance, if students wanted to form a group to raise emergency aid for victims of a natural disaster, the moratorium would severely limit the ability of the group to achieve its goals if it was not allowed to form until the following fall semester.
The other debate during the meeting was over the feasibility of creating just the Task Force while not instituting a moratorium. The argument was that it would be feasible to analyze and search for solutions to the problems while still allowing the creation of new student groups. Lavin disagreed, saying that putting a halt to the registration and creation of new student groups would allow an opportunity for the Task Force and impacted organizations like the SAFC to search for solutions while preventing the exacerbation of the problem.
“If we let that problem accumulate, it’ll get worse and worse,” Lavin said.
While the Task Force will examine many areas of inefficiency within the registration and maintenance of student organizations, one of the main areas of inefficiency currently resides in the funding from the SAFC. According to Lavin, the funding to each of the over 900 student organizations is completely objective; If a group follows the proper protocol of applying for funding, it is guaranteed to receive funding. Also, when requesting funding, most organizations ask for the maximum amount allowed, knowing they are almost guaranteed to receive it. The issue is that many of the organizations do not need as much money as they request, resulting in the waste of much of the funding from the SAFC.
The S.A., on the other hand, subjectively approves funding for 23 organizations. This means that it determines the merits of each application and awards funding based on these merits. Lavin said that while it would be extremely difficult for the SAFC to subjectively approve funding for over 900 organizations, a more efficient process for allocating funding is required.
While funding is one of the major inefficiencies being looked into by the Task Force, the final deadline for SAFC funding for the 2009 spring semester is next Monday on Feb. 2. Even without the passage of Resolution 21 that will take effect next Wednesday, potential new student organizations would not have been eligible to apply for SAFC funding for the spring semester.
The Task Force will also look into the existing student groups. By examining many of the current groups, the Task Force will hopefully be able to make the groups more efficient by determining areas of overlap and identifying groups that are primarily inactive. While the S.A. will not coerce groups to undertake any change or action, the S.A. could, based on the Task Force’s analysis, make recommendations to different student groups to promote efficiency.
By looking at areas of efficiency in student group activities as well as the funding of the different groups, one of the S.A.’s goals is to do its part during the time of economic and financial strain on the University. By making funding and group activity more efficient, money will be hopefully be conserved.
Lavin stressed that trying to examine the funding and registration processes — as well as examining as many of the student groups as possible — would not have been feasible if new student groups were allowed to form during this time. It would be too difficult to analyze and attempt to implement the changes if more groups continued to register.
Despite the negative short-term effects of the resolution, Mezey stated that it was necessary to pass the resolution in order to better the quality of student organizations in the long run. The resolution states, “It is the first and foremost duty of the Student Assembly to enhance the life of every undergraduate student during any and all circumstances.”
Miller reiterated that while this was not an ideal solution in the short run, passing the resolution was something the S.A. had to do.
“We are biting the bullet,” Miller said.