SGA Open Forum Discusses Updated Relationship Statement

On Tuesday, September 17, the Student Government Association (SGA) hosted an open forum on the university’s new “Student Organization Relationship Statement.”

Originally scheduled to be submitted for approval to the Board of Trustees this past June, the accelerated timeline was relaxed in light of feedback the first draft had received.

“The original idea for the 1991 relationship statement was to address the way in which Greek organizations and student groups are both integrated and recognized by the university,” committee member senior Albert Raminfard said. “The whole point of this revision is to organize all student groups under the same set of expectations. It sets the terms of recognition, as well as outlines the rights, responsibilities and privileges of all extracurricular organizations.”

Another key feature of the relationship statement is the integration of the common set of values that complement the educational mission of the university.

The “Living the Liberal Arts” initiative involved the reevaluation of current programs guided by six core principles: intellectual development; citizenship, leadership and service; diversity; personal growth and health and wellness; accountability; and lifelong connections.

“These are the values we want student organizations to embody. We want to encourage our existing groups to complement the standards that define the educational mission of the University,” Brown said on Tuesday.

Between March and May 2013, the committee responsible for drafting the original document had reached out to a multitude of student organizations for feedback on which elements of the statement could be improved. These organizations include the SGA Executive Board, SGA Senate, Dean of the College Managers, Student Affairs Board, fraternity and sorority presidents and alumni and representatives of the Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE).

Two main alterations were then made to the original document. Under the first draft, the proposed Colgate University Recognition Board (CURB) was responsible for the recognition of student organizations and the allocation of funds to said groups. Under the revision, CURB has been renamed the Organization Advisory Committee (OAC), though the makeup of the body remains unchanged. Composed of one student and one faculty or staff member from each advising department, the structure of the OAC represented another point of contention last spring. Students voiced their concerns about the shift of power from student-controlled organizations, like the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Budget

Allocation Committee (BAC).

Perhaps in response to this, the second and more major change to the original document is the omission of any kind of funding stipulations in the Relationship Statement itself.

“We want to establish this now and deal with funding later,” Raminfard said of the decision.

“We would like to get to a point where the OAC can look at funding,” Brown said.

In the past, SGA and BAC have tried to allocate funds based on a historic perspective, with each department receiving a percentage of the allocated budget.

“The BAC will remain intact,” junior and SGA Liasion Seth Martin said. “The advising departments want representation on the committee as well. It’s another avenue we’re considering in order to maintain equal representation in addressing the issue of budget allocation.”

Feedback on this draft is largely positive. Many believe the Relationship Statement clarifies and strengthens the advising department structure and promotes collaboration between groups. The document also makes the process by which organizations are formally recognized by the University more consistent.

Under this proposed document, there are five advising departments to oversee all student groups on campus: SGA/CLSI, the COVE, Greek Life, ALANA and Interfaith.

“We’re aiming to provide organizations with more personalized advising,” Raminfard said. “This is an organic document, and the advisory departments listed here are not set in stone.”

“The creation of these departments will allow the needs of these groups to be better fulfilled, their interests better addressed and represented. For example, Mark Shiner and the Chaplain’s office already handle many of the Interfaith events. Therefore, they’re better suited to advise the groups, as SGA has a broader focus on the entire student body,” Martin said.

“This isn’t something that will kick half the existing organizations off campus,” Martin said. “A couple dozen groups get new departmental advisors. Our goal is to improve the quality and consistency of our existing organizational structure. Groups will have to renew their recognition, but this is a well established practice.”

“The effects won’t be seen right away,” Raminfard said. “Students will start to see the changes to their organizations in the winter and into the spring semester. It’s going to take some time.”

Thus far, the Student Affairs Council (SAC), Student Activities Board (SAB), SGA Executive Board and the SGA Senate, the Greek Life Organization (GLO) leader and the Dean of the College have all reviewed the relationship statement. The next step in the process is the finalization of draft language and resolutions, to be completed on Wednesday, September 25. According to this new timeline, the Board of Trustees will review and approve the updated Relationship Statement on October 5.

Contact Kendall Murtha [email protected]