SAC kicks off the year right, by pissing off club leaders

It’s only the second week of school, but the Student Activities Commission—long known as student organizations’ favorite bureaucratic body on campus—is already off to a great start in solidifying its relations with club leaders.

Two separate group leaders (who both requested anonymity out of concern that their clubs would be targeted) emailed Vox to complain about a message sent out by SAC Adviser Bill McCoy yesterday afternoon detailing the approval process for club events.

From McCoy’s email (which you can find in full after the jump):

Something important to note is that SAC’s approval process is just that – an approval process. SAC must offer approval of all of your events, even those that have no funding associated. If your organization’s name is going to be associated with anything more in depth than a meeting, you should begin talking to your Commissioner …

Also, SAC will often approve an event and allocate for space, without allocating anything else including equipment such as tables and chairs. This gives your organization a good faith basis to pursue an event and reserve space through OCAF before your organization has all the details for the event.

Although the policies detailed in the email are not new, according to McCoy, neither club leader was pleased with the message.   One complained:

Based on the highlighted paragraph, it looks like their going to be asserting even more control over student groups this year. As if it wasn’t hard enough to be a student group on campus, now you don’t even have to ask for money in order to bring down the fierce scrutiny of these self-appointed guardians of Georgetown’s morality, political correctness, etc.

Will they be scrutinizing the questions for the next College Dems vs. College Republicans debate? Checking the internal temperature of GUGS burgers? Monitoring the pacing at the Running Club? Is there a point at which groups will say enough is an enough and just disassociate from the University?

Read the full email after the jump!

Dear Student Organization Leaders-

Hello all, and welcome to a new academic year. The semester is already up and running and there have been many great questions I have already received, so I thought I would reach out to all of you and clarify some of the more complicated procedural issues.

First and foremost, please be sure that your treasurer attends Treasurer Training. It is required that your treasurer attend one of Treasurer Training. If your treasurer attended training in the Spring, it is required that they attend again for the 2009-2010 Academic year. Several things have changed over the summer and we want to assure that your organization has all the relevant information to be successful. There are three more opportunities prior to the deadline:

Monday, September 14^th at 5:00PM in Leavey Club Room
Tuesday, September 15^th at 9:30AM in 316 Leavey
Wednesday, September 16^th at 4:00PM in 316 Leavey

If your treasurer has not attended a session by this Friday, September 18th, your organization will not be able to access any funding or utilize your Cost Center until they are able to be trained. All together the Center for Student Programs has offered 7 trainings prior to the deadline, at diverse times and days, so we have yet to set any make up dates because we really feel most people should be able to have made one of the opportunities.

To touch on the SAC process a little bit, I want to begin by saying that your commissioner should have already reached out to you to begin asking you about your programming calendar and set some expectations regarding procedure. Each of the SAC Commissioners are students, and therefore have unique schedules and commitments. Their responsibility as SAC Commissioner should take priority over some of those commitments, but certainly not all. To fulfill their duties to SAC and to your organization effectively, each commissioner will need to consider their own schedule and working style and set some defined deadlines to meet SAC’s established time-line. Please be considerate of the information and deadlines your commissioner gives you. Please do not base your assumptions on what happened last year, or what another Commissioner might expect for another group.

Something important to note is that SAC’s approval process is just that – an approval process. SAC must offer approval of all of your events, even those that have no funding associated. If your organization’s name is going to be associated with anything more in depth than a meeting, you should begin talking to your Commissioner.

For those events that do have financial implications, SAC allocates and approves expenses on a line item basis: meaning, you have a particular budget for particular types of expenses. If you are allocated $50.00 for decorations you cannot spent $25.00 of that allocation on food. As your advisor’s in CSP, we will not sign off on financial paperwork unless there is an appropriate line item for the type of expense being made. Also, SAC will often approve an event and allocate for space, without allocating anything else including equipment such as tables and chairs. This gives your organization a good faith basis to pursue an event and reserve space through OCAF before your organization has all the details for the event. Please be aware of what gets allocated and make sure OCAF requests reflect what you have actually been allocated – requests can and do get tripped up when we can only approve pieces of a request. It gets confusing down the line if you don’t know what has been requested and approved. I have seen many sit down events go on without chairs because a group neglected to go back to SAC for approval or has gotten funds allocated but never made the follow up request to OCAF.

Finally, I know that we all get busy as the semester rolls along, but please, plan ahead. Give yourself ample time to touch base with your SAC Commissioner and your advisor in CSP. It is probably the best way to ensure a productive academic year.

Best,
Bill McCoy

When asked about whether the policies detailed in the original email are new, this is what McCoy had to say:

The simple answer to your question is that my email is certainly just a restatement of existing policies.

A more detailed response would acknowledge that I am not entirely surprised that some student organizations’ may not have this information. Practically, it is often a challenge to capture those events that do not require funding. The approval process for free events is often unseen – and rather completed as a discretionary approval (or DA) and do not require attendance at a SAC meetings. Knowing and receiving several questions on this point in the past two weeks, the purpose of my email was to clearly reiterate this expectation.

It is important to recognize that it is to all student organizations’ benefit to work through this process. If we are truly able to assess and describe the scale of programming that takes place on campus, we will be in a better position to address the availability of those benefits groups have access to when programming. The SAC process is a part of ensuring that we know, and can report out the vibrant and diverse programming offered on campus annually.

14 Comments on “SAC kicks off the year right, by pissing off club leaders

  1. Haha. Hahaha. Hahahahahah.

    Yeah, vibrant and diverse programming. How vibrant and diverse can you be if you need to approve – and justify – every tablecloth or can of coke in advance?

  2. How sad is it that people have to request anonymity to speak their mind freely about SAC?

  3. I am so glad I don’t run a club anymore. My club (College Bowl) split from SAC because of these overbearing policies. The long and short of it was that we held an event whose proceeds would go to fund the team’s trip to a national championship competition they qualified for. SAC made us jump through hoops to even hold the event and after all that they wanted to keep all of the proceeds and maybe give us $100. $100 isn’t going to get four people to Alabama for four days. After we heard that we pocketed the money, funded the team and never dealt with SAC again.

    If you don’t need SAC, don’t deal with them. It’s not worth it.

  4. SAC’s lack of accountability to the student body for their misguided, unqualified “advice” they hand out to clubs in the form of a lack of funding is horrifying. Add to the previous mess this totalitarian power grab and we’ve got a serious detriment to student life on this campus.

  5. These complaints are kind of ridiculous. Certainly dealing with funding boards and paperwork is nobody’s favorite past-time, but it’s the necessary cost of having University-sponsored student groups with access to University money.

    I think its a reasonable assertion that groups that fall under the purview of the University should have to at least check in with the school to tell them what they’re doing. Particularly when the University would be held liable for anything the student groups did they weren’t supposed to.

    One prime example are the political groups. If the College Dems or Republicans accidentally violate election law, The University can get into some serious tax trouble with their non-profit status.

    In a similar legal vain, if a student group holds an event with food but serves alcohol to minors, that’d still have potential implications for the University as having officially sponsored the event through the club.

    Finally, if student groups want to bring controversial speakers to campus, the University should probably have at least some heads up so it can prepare. Thankfully, our administration doesn’t seem to arbitrarily forbid speakers because of ideological differences, but theoretically hosting someone that will raise a lot of public backlash is a decision the University should at least get to weigh in on some.

    Ultimtately, I just don’t think it’s unreasonable for University groups to need University approval. If you want to have an event without any approval, no one is stopping you, but you probably shouldn’t expect to be able to advertise it as being sponsored by an official student group or with official resources.

  6. As much as I hate SAC I have to agree with Nick. In the overly litigious society we live in today the University needs to watch its back on everything, and when you have 150+ organizations running around with the Georgetown name on it, there has to be a source of control. SAC does a horrible job at communicating the reasons it does things, but when you actually sit down and talk with them their procedures become more clear.

  7. You’re telling me that SAC should have to approve a study break at someone’s townhouse when a bunch of students watch a movie, without even requesting money for pizza? How about tabling in Red Square? That’s not a meeting, and theoretically would be covered. Perhaps organizing a group of members to take the Metro, at their own expense, to a soup kitchen to volunteer would need to be approved.

    What people aren’t talking about is the fact that the SAC process is already miserably mired in bureaucratic red tape and does not allow for dynamic event planning, by requiring that everything be scheduled well in advance. Why not have a yearly auditing process, where groups are required to show balanced books once a month to SAC, so that if an opportunity comes up on a few days notice, the group can act on it? Instead, groups have to appear before SAC to get a few bags of chips and some bottles of soda for a speaking event.

    All this is not to mention that SAC meetings are already dreadfully long, votes are taken in secret, sometimes even by email, and commissioners are chosen by and subject to the oversight of only SAC itself. What will happen if SAC really does consider every event? How long will the meetings go? Why should they be wasting their and clubs’ time by considering whether it is alright if a club hosts a debate, shows a movie, or brings its Freshmen on a tour of the monuments? Who checks SAC? Why isn’t there an appeal process if a group thinks that it’s request was wrongly denied?

    Let’s consider the stranglehold that SAC already holds on student groups. Why would anyone want to allow them to tighten their grip?

  8. I completely agree with Club Leader above.

    And to those who think SAC is merely a normal but unfortunate byproduct of our litigious society: consider how many other schools have a group quite like SAC?

    Most schools have funding allocated in semesterly or yearly blocks, distributed by people who are accountable in some way (either through elections or a democratic appeals process). The accountability process is checked by occasional audits, and for violations clubs are sanctioned. Sanctioning can include loss of funding, loss of the ability to throw events, or in more severe terms probation, suspension or expulsion.

    Dealing with tedious paperwork is the least of the problems. SAC’s structure not only encourages “pizza party” type events and implicitly discourages outside-the-box thinking, but also infantalizes student leaders.

    Is it any wonder that the best-run organizations on campus have minimal-to-no SAC support, or outside sources of funding? I refer to the Corp, GUAFSCU and to a lesser extent GIRC, GUGS, and Chimes.

  9. Should groups funded by the University bear some level of responsibility to the university? of course, i don’t think anyone disputes that. But, lets honestly look at student life here on campus. Its abysmal. Compared to our supposed “peer” universities, our clubs and extracurricular activities are an absolute joke. The administrative mechanisms put in place to oversee club activity are blatantly hostile to clubs that try to do too much.

    An example. To get ANY funding for your club, you have to be a club for at least year, holding regular meetings, before you get a thin dime. Student leaders know how hard it is to keep groups functioning even when they have SACs blessing. Its absurd to ask people to develop a club over a year without any funding.

    1. This makes it impossible for a Senior to start a club and then be able to reap the rewards of its existence.
    2. Many good ideas for clubs never get off the ground. My freshmen year I joined a Public Speaking team that was looking to focus on different-style events than the debate team, but it inevitably fell apart because it couldn’t be sustained without many.
    3. Our peer universities don’t have this sort of horse ****. They encourage entrepreneurship, and if a student is willing to draft a reasonable proposal for a club, they’re given a small amount of start up money. If they use that money wisely, they are given more. Is that so unreasonable?

    I’ve paid my stupid SAC fee for 4 years so that future generations, who won’t pay it, can have a supply of money. Meanwhile, SAC has a gargantuan budget surplus every year, yet turns down many ideas for legitimate student activity.

    SAC is a blight. It should be abolished. Bill McCoy should be fired, and Behnia…well…I won’t even go there. SAC has detracted from my time at Georgetown to the point where I would actually discourage people from coming to Georgetown, if they had an expressed interest in extracurricular activities.

  10. Also, Nick misses the point. First of all, let me say that the university would NOT get into meaningful tax trouble unless it very blatantly endorsed a political candidate. The idea that if the CRs make T-Shirts saying ‘Georgetown Loves McCain’ etc. the University would lose its tax status is completely and utterly laughable.

    Also, if a group wanted to bring a controversial speaker to campus, of course they should have the university’s blessing.

    I’m talking about a budget process where groups get literally NO money approved for a year, have to go to SAC for every little fucking thing, like having pizza and watching a movie. That is ABSURD.

    Nick, just using the most extreme examples to justify there should be COMPLETE oversight isn’t a good argument. No one here is saying clubs should just spend whatever they want on a Gtown credit card and then have SAC cover the bill later.

  11. Bill McCoy is a tool of the highest caliber. He’s out of place and over his head when he tries to tell intelligent student leaders how to behave. Bring back Martha.

  12. I bet that Georgetown’s ranking would improve to be a top 10 school if only Bill McCoy left (or was fired). Administrators love to talk about how our small endowment, but how about the subversive and terrible work by so much of the staff?

  13. Bill McCoy….

    What can one say? Bureaucratic incompetence, obsessive micromanagement, offensive posters in his work place, habitual rudeness to students, etc.

    He needs to go!

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