Campus leaders promote wellness, discuss referendum

With almost half of the Spring semester complete, student organizations are busy working on several ongoing initiatives. The Students Presidents’ Roundtable (SPR) and the University Program Board (UPB) are among them, the prior focused on student wellness and Legacy Week, while UPB is pushing a referendum proposal.

Eight organizations are represented in SPR: the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC), the University Media Board (UMB), UPB, the Interfraternity Congress (IFC), the Panhellenic Council (PHC), the Class Officer Collective (COC) and the Residence Hall Association (RHA). The council meets regularly throughout the academic year to address various issues relating to Case Western Reserve University and the various student organizations. With the exception of RHA, each group receives funding through the Student Activity Fee included in student tuition.

In collaboration with University Marketing & Communications, SPR Chair Caroline Gray said the organization is in the process of approving a logo for SpartanStrong, a wellness initiative which will operate through University Health & Counseling Services (UH&CS). The initiative, which will hopefully be in full swing by Spring 2019, was created in response to negative student survey data as to their overall wellness.

Gray hopes that SpartanStrong will encourage students to pursue overall well-being, and also to raise awareness about different types of wellness. She stressed the importance of not only physical wellness, but also “other types of wellness, such as financial and environmental wellness.”

Once the SpartanStrong logo is approved, it will be available to student organizations that host events UH&CS considers to promote wellness; they will approve organizations for incorporating the logo into promotional posters, letting students know that attendance will benefit their wellbeing.

Gray also said that SPR is in the process of scheduling Legacy Week, the theme of which is “Better Together.” It will run from April 23-28.

“[The theme] ties into celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Federation of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University,” she said. “Right now, SPR is essentially scheduling events and making sure different departments and organizations have a clear understanding of our goals for the event and access to historical information.”

She said SPR is also working on public relations with Student Activities and Leadership Office (SA&L) and UPB.

UPB has also been pursuing their own initiatives, specifically a referendum which would structurally reorganize funding for off-the-tops (OTTs); this includes Springfest, Thwing Study Over (TSO) and Senior Week. The referendum, proposed by UPB President Mena Vij, would link OTTs to UPB.

“The proposal highlights three benefits for the previously known OTTs: increase in organizational efficiency, financial stability and innovation and collaboration,” Vij said. “The primary change is that OTTs will not apply for funding through the Allocations Committee (AC), but will be guaranteed a set percentage from UPB.”

The SEC provides each of the seven financial boards a predetermined base allocation from Student Activity Fee (SAF), which totals to approximately $2 million. The AC distributes about 85 percent of this quantity amongst the SEC student organizations. The remainder of the funds are considered Reserve Funding, so other organizations, including OTTs, must request allocations should they seek funding.

As the former Director of Springfest, Vij explained that this restructuring would secure their funding and make the planning process more efficient.

“After my experience [with] Springfest, I realized that the issues I faced were shared among the other OTT directors,” she said. “The biggest issue is we do not know our funding until very close to our events which, for Springfest for example, we plan the event for over six months not officially knowing what our budget will be until a few months before the event after contracts and everything is due.”

She added that the current structure of funding procedures “heightens” and “expands” those complications—complications which the proposal would directly address. Vij also emphasized that the referendum would not increase the money given to UPB Standing Committees, like Concerts, On-Campus and Off-Campus, but would simply redistribute allocated funds.

“If the referendum passes, UPB would receive close to 40 percent of the SAF,” she said. “13 percent of the SAF has historically been distributed to OTTs and will continue to do so under the proposed system.”

While the referendum was initially intended to apply to only Springfest, Vij said that after discussing her idea with SPR, it was decided “it would be best for UPB to adsorb [other OTTs] as well.”

Gray explained that after SPR’s creation several years ago, the structural transition provided various challenges for OTTs.

She said, “I think that this referendum would be a way to potentially solve some of those issues. I think other methods also exist.”

According to Gray, SPR has been “focusing on providing feedback to UPB about the referendum.”

SPR’s primary focus is on maintaining campus traditions, like OTTs, but Gray said it is support from the student body that will ultimately determine whether or not the proposed referendum passes.

“I think the point of having a referendum is for the student body to decide for themselves,” she said. “However, I think overall there seems to be a sense of understanding from the SPR that current students love these long-standing traditions and want to ensure their perpetuity in some form; whether or not this is the form students want is up to them.”

She added, “It’s hard to say if future students would feel the same way, but there are always avenues to adapt to the needs of the future students in our dynamic student governance structure should they feel differently.”

Given the collaborative element of the proposal, Vij invited students who would like to be “involved in the conversation or have any questions or concerns” to reach out to her via email.