Students can rejoice as the second SEC referendum within six months has become yet another one for the history books. But before we commit the Greek Life referendum to the past forever, let’s look at what the Case Western Reserve University campus can learn from recent SEC history.
First, we question the fundamental wisdom behind SEC. Obviously, students need to have a say in monitoring where the student activities fee (SAF) is allocated each semester but they need to do so with some order and objectivity. Students who sit on SEC are typically on the board for no more than a year and there’s little wonder that a committee made up of transient student leaders would miss small accounting errors that eventually result in tens of thousands of dollars in the kinds of rollovers that Greek Life and UPB have both developed. Motivating the majority of students on campus to consider taking on executive positions is difficult – especially when you consider that all CWRU students have large academic and extra-curricular commitments already – and to expect that all student leaders will be perfect when completing organization budgets is ridiculous. These are students, not professional accountants, doing these budgets and working with over a million dollars a year of students’ tuition dollars. Expecting these students to handle this responsibility alone on top of their myriad other commitments across campus is not only foolish but forces these students to focus on other activities before academics, a truly mortal sin at CWRU.
This leads us to our second point: SEC needs closer faculty and staff supervision and a stronger structure supporting their meetings and operations. We support additional, vocal staff counsel on SEC – not staff control over the SAF, but a larger objective staff presence to act as the collective memory for a group whose members nearly always have one-year terms. In addition to a more active staff presence on SEC, individual audits of each organization’s SAF allocation should be performed. Currently, students act as watchdogs for each organization’s allocation and a legitimate, outside audit is performed only for the overall SAF. Had actual audits by outside accounting firms been performed yearly instead of expecting students to handle this responsibility, rollovers would not be able to develop over several decades. We also commend the current SEC for embarking on a meticulous examination and rewrite of their constitution and by-laws over the summer and we sincerely hope that the committee will adopt some sort of strict order at their meetings, even if Robert’s Rules are considered to be guidelines for running meetings. Although formality might be dying in today’s society, any organization in charge of distributing a million dollars a year needs to have a firm structure governing its activities.
Finally, we look to the future and apply the lessons of the past and we’re willing to bet that this supposed $80,000 donation to the future Tinkham Veale III University Center will become a point of great contention on this campus. Although hard to motivate students on most issues, we’ve learned that squabbling over money will never get old for CWRU. When we consider the tricky logistics and shaky logic of the donation as well as the strong arguments for putting the money elsewhere – chiefly that USG will distribute around $100,000 for student groups a semester and that $80,000 could certainly be put to a lot of great uses by student groups in the present – we already see a new money controversy coming on. Let’s hope that the faculty, staff, and new SEC members will be ready to learn from the lessons of the past whenever that battle arises.