I have been involved in student organizations throughout my time at Boston College, including serving on two different executive boards and being president of the Economics Association this past year. As such, I’ve spent a great deal of time working with the Student Programs Office (SPO) and the Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC). After four years of close interaction with both of them, I understand the need for these organizations to be in place. Yet, I also believe that they can be a hindrance to student clubs.
For the Economics Association, our main goal-like the goal for most organizations-is to organize events throughout the year for our members and other interested students on campus. This is where my main issues lie. To identify with my perspective, though, it’s useful to understand the steps of how an event comes to be at BC.
I’ll first discuss the process for an event that doesn’t require SOFC funding. Once a club has confirmed the interest of the people who will be conducting the event and has figured out a date that works, the first step an organization must take is to submit a room booking request through BC’s website. Approval can take up to a week. Next, another submission must be directed to SPO for approval through MyBC. This can take over a week. Finally, once that’s confirmed, clubs can submit flyers to SPO to advertise their events.
For events that don’t require a great deal of funding from SOFC, I believe there are too many submissions for a club to undergo, and I definitely see the possibility of shortening the process. But, the bigger issue is when money is involved.
SOFC is the organization that funds student organizations. Each year, every undergrad student pays a student activity fee-$310 last year-that helps fund BC programming such as UGBC, Nights on the Heights, and BC2Boston, in addition to the events put on by Registered Student Organizations. To acquire funding, clubs submit budgets at the beginning of every semester, with the opportunity to submit additional budgets for other events that come up. Having a budget reviewed and accepted can take anywhere from one to two or even more weeks.
Per BC’s Student Organization Manual, SPO “must give prior approval to any event where the total expenses are predicted to exceed $500.” This means that for nearly every event featuring a guest speaker-some of which range from $5,000 to $20,000 and even higher-prior approval must be granted. Once that’s taken care of, budgets can then be submitted. Only after the budget is approved can a club then begin the room booking/SPO event/flyer approval progression explained earlier.
When SOFC is involved, the whole process can take well over a month-a major problem in its own right-but the bigger issue is that it is not at all conducive for bringing in guest speakers. Speakers are popular and demand high prices for a reason, and often their dates are limited. They or their representatives also like to know whether the event will happen soon after being requested, as their calendars need to be planned far in advance. Yet, once the initial SPO approval happens, clubs have to wait one to two weeks to know if funding will be approved, and another two to four weeks to book a room and have the event be approved by SPO through MyBC.
Most speakers are too busy to sit around for three to four weeks waiting on a student organization to get approval from these various groups. So, this leaves clubs in a precarious state-either they (1) proceed with the speaker and hope that everything will be approved, or (2) risk not organizing the event because they’ve told the speaker it will be a month before the organization knows if the event will be approved.
Instead of continuing with what I believe is a convoluted system, I would like to propose the following solutions for organizing events. For smaller events, BC should combine the room booking process with SPO approval. Under a new system, if a club sees a date on which a desired room is available, it will submit one request that includes all the event information and a flyer complete with the prospective date. Ideally, the organization will hear back no later than one week from its submission.
Events that require large amounts of funding should have a separate protocol. I suggest a system in which submitting a written proposal to both an SPO administrator and SOFC is first step. Second, once the request is discussed by both parties, a brief meeting between the organization and SPO will take place. This should take no longer than two weeks following the initial submission. Next, since the event has already been approved in conversation at that point, rather than having the club go through the room-booking/SPO event confirmation process, SPO should be able to approve a room immediately for those big events. This wouldn’t interfere with the smaller events because any rooms that were pending approval would be off limits.
The fact that BC has over 300 student organizations, and that each year thousands of dollars are allocated to fund them, is admirable. But the current event-planning system can often dissuade students from putting on events featuring noteworthy speakers. It’s my hope that, in the future, SPO and SOFC can work better together to encourage students in this area. We have one of the brightest and most hardworking student bodies in the world. Let’s remove the unnecessary barriers for student organizations so that we can achieve even more.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights