March 11, 2010

Organizational Review Committee Aims to Prevent Group Overlap

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The plethora of overlapping student groups on campus will soon be experiencing some scrutiny, as the Student Assembly Organizational Review Committee springs into action this semester. The committee will review new groups hoping to form and begin the process of consolidating existing groups with similar purposes.

The committee was created by Resolution 29 last fall. This resolution gave the Student Assembly the power to revoke the status of certain student organizations, or to deny requests to form new student groups starting from fall of 2010.

The method of review for new groups hoping to form is a three-fold process. First, the committee will check that the group has all requirements necessary to form, including four members and an advisor.

“We would then thoroughly scrutinize their mission statement, and compare it with other organizations on campus [to] ensure that there’s no redundancy in mission statements. [We will also look at their] charter and their bylaws [to ensure that] there isn’t any copying of that of other organizations that already exist on campus,” S.A. President Rammy Salem ’10  said. Lastly, the committee will consider the group’s plans and ideals and determine whether it duplicates the functions of already existing groups.

Another process will be created for groups that are already established within the University that seem to be duplicates or have similar ideals to other groups. The committee plans to sit down with groups that have similar goals to give them the option of collaboration or consolidation, which they say would bring members together to plan more successful events for their clubs.

Jennifer Kim ’13 supports the committee’s plans for action. “As a pre-med student, I came to Cornell looking for opportunities in public and health services. I was initially overwhelmed by the number of community service and health organizations on campus. This process will help to consolidate groups and make them stronger in their areas,” Kim said.

The committee will also begin an investigation to look into groups whose main function is to support the efforts of another.

“[We need to find out] if those two organizations are they actually two different organizations, or if they are the same, just duplicated, and using the system to use twice as many funds,” S.A. President-Elect Vincent Andrews said.

Because Resolution 29 will not go into effect until fall of 2010, Resolution 49 has been passed, creating an ad hoc group to look into group conflicts for this semester. “There [has already been] a complaint between three  student groups on campus, so the ad hoc committee is looking into that complaint and will purely [be] giving a recommendation to the Student activities office … [as to] what course of action to take,” Andrews said.

This is the first time the S.A. has dealt with such a complaint. “We haven’t reached a decision yet at all, so [each group] will have an opportunity to demonstrate how it’s unique [compared to the others],” Salem said.

These actions follow those of Resolution 21. The primary reason for the moratorium was to begin an examination process regarding the redundancy of many groups on campus, as well as the growing number of clubs on campus which have created issues regarding funding and resources, a problem which was brought to the S.A.’s attention by the Student Activities office. In addition to the resolution, the S.A. created the Registered Student Organization Auditing Task Force, an organization to examine and create solutions for the many issues regarding the over 900 clubs currently registered on campus.

According to Salem, the spring of 2009 was spent going through “a review process where we went through every single group’s mission statement and tried to see where there was overlap. What we found was quite startling,” Salem said. The task force discovered the existence of groups that had found loopholes in the club system, some of which had created new groups whose mission statement and goals were to support the efforts of the original groups. In other cases, groups would work together to pool their funding in an attempt to get around SAFC allocations.

“We [also] found that there were a lot of organizations that seemed to have similarities …  [Here is a] theoretical example: you have the poker club, the card playing club and then the Texas Hold ‘Em club. All these organizations have something similar to each other. But they’re also a tiny bit different,” said Andrews.

One of the issues concerning the formation of redundant groups was the creation of a new but similar group by a disgruntled former member of the original group who was not elected to a desired position. “[In addition to being able to run your own group, it] also looks great on your resume to have founded a group. [But] the more student groups proliferate, the more our resources are stretched. And the SAFC only has so much money,” Salem said. The S.A. aims to try to resolve some of these difficulties through the committee’s plans.

Starting from fall of 2010, the committee will begin its review process. “[Realistically], it’s only really going to have a big effect if there are complaints [made], just because that’s the nature of having one committee and over 900 groups on campus,” Andrews said, adding that it is a good sign if there aren’t any complaints.

The S.A. hopes that the process will ultimately benefit students and bring them together to to work in conjunction. “I hope that it will provide more abundant resources for already existing groups and [groups] don’t feel like they have to compete for financial and spatial resources as much as they already do. We’re trying to take a burden off of groups’ shoulders,” Salem said.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh