Aggressive Timeline for Relationship Statement Slows, Committee Synthesizes Feedback

Carter Cooper

On April 4, the “Student Organization Relationship Statement” was presented to student group leaders at the Student Government Association’s (SGA) monthly leaders meeting. Director of the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement (CLSI) Michael Maningas highlighted both the profound structural implications of the proposed statement and the aggressive timeline that the Relationship Statement Committee had set for its completion.

“One thing that has really been on the table after all the forums both in the student realm and from the faculty and administrative perspective is that we may want to hold off on this,” committee member and junior Albert Raminfard said. “This is a huge change, and it seems kind of rushed.”

The committee anticipated that a statement would be sent to the Board of Trustees for approval at their summer meeting on June 7-8. It now appears that the committee has eased up on its timeline.

“We’ll do it right rather than quickly,” Associate Vice President and Dean of the College Scott Brown said.

Maningas told student leaders to anticipate opportunities for student feedback on the statement in the coming weeks, but unlike other recent policy changes such as the new event registration policy, there have been no open forums on the proposed statement in April. Instead, the committee has solicited feedback directly from the SGA Executive Board, the Dean of the College managers, the Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE), sorority and fraternity presidents and the Student Activities Board, according to Raminfard.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 26. According to committee members, the Friday meeting will be an opportunity to synthesize feedback, edit the statement and perhaps break the statement into segments.

“I’m not sure if we’re pretty close and it can be done pretty quickly and everyone will be pretty satisfied […] or maybe it’s raised a lot of good questions and we’re going to need to explore further and figure out what it looks like,” Brown said.

The original intention of the statement was to update the University’s 1991 relationship statement, which dealt with issues of liability for student groups. The proposed document now additionally addresses issues of recognition and funding. Student groups, under the proposed statement, would be recognized and funded through a new organization called the Colgate University Recognition Board (CURB).

The CURB has become the most contentious piece of the 2013 statement because it would result in a shift in power solely from students to a joint team of students and administrators. Within the CURB, one student and one University advisor would represent each department. Departments include CLSI/SGA, the COVE, Club Sports, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs (OFSA), The Africana, Latin American, Asian American and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center and the Chaplain’s Office.

Under the proposed statement, recognition would be granted and funding would be allocated by the CURB instead of student-controlled organizations such as the Budget Allocations Committee (BAC) and the SGA.

“The whole aspect of this that is scary is that the power is being shifted to the administration,” Raminfard said.

Such a shift in control of the students activities fee would overturn the 1979 governance structure that stipulated that students would allocate the student activities fee themselves, and much of the power to fund and recognize would move towards departments and away from the BAC and the SGA. The student activities fee was $155.00 this semester.

“I would be more in support of this if every department had a student committee similar to the BAC,” Raminfard said.

The implications of a change in how student organizations are recognized and funded are both structural and experiential. Whereas at the moment, students are encouraged to work with each other to allocate the activities fee and negotiate together to help new groups come in to being, the proposed CURB would add a level of administrative oversight to the process.

Raminfard describes the current process as a “great experience in terms of managing money, managing a project, making crucial decisions.”

Fears of a loss of student control of recognition and funding may be alleviated if the Relationship Statement committee stipulates that administrative members of the CURB work in a non-voting, advisory capacity. Whether or not departmental advisors will be able to vote on issues of funding and recognition may be decided at Friday’s meeting.

“We have good systems in place,” Brown said. “Ideally we want to preserve as much student autonomy as we can and we don’t want to add any additional steps unless we get a lot of value of adding anything. […] We think this advisory group is going to enhance the quality and the consistency of the student groups”

Issues that committee members hope will be resolved with the proposed statement include overprogramming of events at certain times of the year, collaboration between groups where there hasn’t been before, and more equitable and transparent processes for funding.

The committee’s mission will be to bring student groups in line with the principles of the “organizations of excellence,” which includes intellectual development; citizenship, leadership and service; diversity, access and inclusion; personal growth, health and wellness; accountability; and lifelong connections.

Contact Carter Cooper

at [email protected].