SAC Hears Student Concerns
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 02:03
I commend the Student Life Report 2012 committee for preparing a detailed, accurate account of student life at Georgetown and for providing important recommendations for improvement. I hope that these recommendations will serve as an impetus for change to enhance the student experience.
However, I wish to address the report’s recommendations regarding the Student Activities Commission. As the vice-chair of SAC, it is gratifying to me that the report recognizes the substantial improvements to SAC in recent years, citing some of SAC’s best practices, while also providing additional recommendations. As a result, SAC has appointed a commissioner to oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
The report advises that SAC clarify the role of the Center for Student Programs adviser for SAC to ensure that student commissioners have the final say. The CSP adviser, while an important source of guidance and institutional memory for SAC, at present serves the commission in purely an advisory capacity. Nonetheless, SAC supports the recommendation to clarify this relationship.
The report further recommends that SAC institutionalize consultation and collaboration between SAC and its student groups. Since fall 2011, SAC has embraced these ideas like never before. Commissioners are required to stay in close contact with their individual student groups and to hold regular office hours. In addition, SAC’s latest budget guide requires that student groups have regular opportunities to evaluate their commissioners.
SAC has held a number of town halls over the past year, largely to discuss matters relating to funding reform. We believe that the town halls have been a valuable tool in enhancing communication, and we hope to continue to hold such meetings while also exploring other methods of communication.
We recently held our first-ever SAC student leader focus group, and we are in the process of creating an online comment form. In the coming weeks, SAC will explore how it can formalize its communication, collaboration and redress mechanisms. We have already decided that at our next meeting, a 10-minute comment period will be established to allow students to share their thoughts.
The report also advised the use of a digital database to analyze data, with the intent of making funding decisions more objective. SAC strongly supports these recommendations. Under SAC’s new budget system, there is more data available than ever before. The commission already used this data to provide a detailed account of student group needs to the Georgetown University Student Association’s recent budget summit. We have appointed two commissioners to oversee data management and analysis and to explore how we can better utilize this information.
It was also recommended that SAC institute a fair, robust appeals process for student groups. SAC currently allows student groups to appeal any decision to the commission and then to the director of the CSP. We recognize that it is not ideal for student groups to appeal directly to the commission that made the decision with which they disagree. However, it is also not ideal that decisions are left to CSP, given that CSP’s relationship with SAC should be strictly advisory. SAC aims to codify a fairer and more robust appeals process for student groups in the near future.
Furthermore, the report recommends moving advocacy, performing arts and religious SAC groups to more appropriate advisory boards or university offices. We will work with these groups, and with other advisory boards and campus organizations, to reach these decisions.
Georgetown’s space-booking procedures, specifically those of the Office of Campus Activity Facilities, were criticized as being too convoluted. SAC has begun evaluating the use of its own spaces to make them more accessible to student groups. We strongly support efforts to streamline and centralize space booking on campus.
Finally, the report recommends that club officers have online access to their groups’ financial records. SAC has been working with CSP for some time now to provide online access, and we hope to have such a system in place by next year.
Eric Neidle is a senior in the School of Foriegn Service and vice-chair of the Student Activities Commission.