For many students, the GUSA executive candidates’ sparring over club funding may have served as the first introduction to the problems of the current Student Activities Commission’s funding system, but for some club leaders the guidelines have been a nuisance for a while.
From the most basic and highly publicized funding fault, the much-vilified Programming Arc, to the more underlying institutional problems like a lack of student input, it’s time that SAC take a hard long look in the mirror.
In recent days the SAC funding dispute has reached new heights after several clubs and student leaders signed a letter to the commission expressing their grievances. The thrust of the letter was a simple request — the chance to voice critiques of the latest funding guidelines in an open forum next week before they are implemented. Student groups’ primary qualm with the current guidelines is a relatively new funding procedure, the Programming Arc, which went into effect last October. At that time, SAC and student clubs were scrambling to adjust to the GUSA funding reforms. Everyone hastily signed on.
Before the Programming Arcs, club events were funded on an event-by-event basis. With the Programming Arc, clubs must submit a budget two months prior to the start of the next semester to get approval for a caped pool of funding to be allocated over the course of the semester. But for many groups — such as the International Relations Club or the College Democrats — programs need to be developed ad hoc over the course of the semester as political happenings crop up; for these groups, the Programming Arc system is as unrealistic as it is restrictive.
Now, with SAC’s budget application due to GUSA on Sunday, it’s crunch time. The letter sent to SAC on Thursday is in some ways too little too late. Where were these same club leaders weeks ago? Even so, their complaints have brought to light the major flaws of the Programming Arc, and perhaps more importantly, the lack of student group voice in SAC’s decision-making process.
Currently, SAC provides no formal avenue for clubs to provide feedback on its annual funding guideline revisions. This is exactly what students have reasonably requested in their letter to SAC. But in the past week, Bill McCoy, associate director of the Center for Student Programs and SAC’s adviser, had a less than promising response to the grievances and requests of group leaders. This calls into question the larger, more ongoing issue of SAC’s ability to properly represent student interests and appropriately advise clubs
SAC has a duty to the clubs it serves. Its duty is to devise the best possible funding method for all of them, whether it’s the Programming Arc, individual event funding or even a combination of the two. SAC needs to remember that it is at its best when representing students’ interests rather than dictating them. If that means stepping up and holding a last-minute forum in order to hear club perspectives before setting a new policy, then such a forum must take place, time crunch aside. There will definitely need to be institutional reforms at a later date to ensure the long-term facilitation of student group feedback. But for now, the clubs have spoken and SAC has an obligation to listen.