Sheridan Out of Step in SGA Attack

Like Steve Sheridan, I too feel “compelled to say something.” In his editorial column in last week’s Maroon-News (“SGA Should Unclog Budget”), Mr. Sheridan criticized the SGA for approving too many student clubs, claiming that the $100 “slush fund” granted to each of these organizations every semester has dire implications for the BAC’s budget. He also singled out the Colgate Cloggers, insinuating that this club is particularly undeserving of official recognition.

Yes, perhaps the SGA ought to reexamine its approval process. However, Mr. Sheridan’s criticism of the Cloggers only reveals his thorough lack of knowledge about the club. It also reflects a pervasive and disturbing tendency among Colgate students to disparage or discount an issue without even attempting to learn something about it beforehand.

Mr. Sheridan selected the “Clogging Club” (which, by the way, is actually called the Colgate Cloggers) to represent the organizations that do not deserve recognition because they are not necessarily “good or beneficial to the Colgate community.” His choice of clubs did enable him to add a clever title to his article. In making that choice, though, he egregiously misrepresented the nature and purpose of the Cloggers.

The Cloggers strongly emphasize entertaining and educating the community over personally enjoying our form of dance. The club has performed in every World Expo and Dancefest since the fall of 2003, when the club was founded. After every performance, we have received substantial positive feedback from those who saw us dance. We also plan to organize a performance at the hospital’s Extended Care Unit. Any accusations that the Cloggers do not benefit the Colgate and Hamilton communities are groundless.

The Cloggers were founded in 2003, you might say. Why apply for recognition now, when you seem to have managed just fine for two whole years? The answer brings us back to the topic of the BAC’s budget.

The clubs that perform in Dancefest and World Expo use costumes to enhance the audience’s experience of the dances. Costumes are particularly necessary for World Expo, because special clothing is often an essential part of each dance’s cultural context. In the past, the Cloggers have been denied BAC funding for costumes. The rationale for this decision? We were not an SGA-recognized club.

The Cloggers had no slush fund to pay for costumes because we were not recognized. We were also unable to obtain BAC funding for costumes because we were not recognized. The solution was fairly obvious: apply for SGA recognition.

In applying for recognition, the Cloggers were not attempting to gain a whopping $100 so that we could order Slices at our practices. Quite the contrary: we want to incorporate costumes into our dances so that you as an audience member will both enjoy our performance more and learn more about clogging.

Clearly, Mr. Sheridan was not well informed about the club that he chose to disparage. Unfortunately, the SGA minutes omitted any description of the Cloggers, so this information was not as readily available as I would wish. However, lack of knowledge about a group is not sufficient justification for a person to publish baseless criticisms of that group in a public forum such as the Maroon-News.

Yet Mr. Sheridan’s article is just one example of a larger trend. It seems to me that students often do not take the time to learn the facts behind an issue before broadcasting their biased, or at best uninformed, opinions. Everyone is guilty of this on occasion, including myself. However, when those opinions have the potential to negatively affect other people, we ought to “unclog” our minds of preconceptions and make an effort to get at least the basic facts right.

I agree with Mr. Sheridan’s assertion that it is worth debating whether financial considerations should play a greater role in the SGA’s organization approval process. However, his characterization of the Colgate Cloggers as an organization that provides no benefit to the Colgate community is grossly inaccurate. Frankly, it is also offensive to those of us who, over the past five semesters, have devoted literally hundreds of hours of our time to providing recreational and educational benefits to the community. I believe that receiving a fraction of the BAC’s budget in order to increase those benefits is not too much to ask in return.