SOCs from JDW

James Duncan-Welke

1) What do you think the positive benefits of the SOC can be, for both the individual student groups and the Lawrence campus?There are a couple of major benefits to the SOC policy. LUCC’s primary goal is to bring Lawrence’s student organizations together, in response to a sort of splintering trend that we’ve observed lately. What I mean by splintering is the division of the whole — in this case, the pool of Lawrentians interested in joining a student organization — into many small groups. While I have nothing against a variety of interest-based groups, smaller groups have a much harder time putting on events and drawing awareness to what they do. Furthermore, the more groups we have, the greater chance there is that some of them encompass similar interests. If groups remain separate this is a bad thing, because it takes the available supply of people interested in a specific issue and divides it, making both groups less productive.

The most concrete side effect of the SOC is money. In the past years, LUCC’s Finance Committee has been under increasing pressure to fund a growing number of groups. The big problem is that the number of groups wanting to be funded has risen higher than the amount of money at LUCC’s disposal, making Finance Committee’s job quite difficult. It is especially hard when multiple groups speak to the same interests, as I mentioned earlier.

The benefits, then, of the SOC plan are twofold. First, the plan encourages groups to work together. This means more people can get together to do something big, rather than several smaller groups of people attempting to bring awareness to a certain issue or event.

This is especially important at Lawrence because single groups do not generally have the time to single-handedly organize concerts, exhibitions, film showings, etc.
Second is the benefit for LUCC, and for the campus as a whole. If groups are collaborating, Finance Committee can direct its resources to a smaller number of big events, rather than a bigger number of small events. And though it may sound like there’s no difference between those two situations, the SOC plan ensures that LUCC’s money — which is the campus’ money as well — is being used effectively.

2) What are the biggest drawbacks to its success?

The two biggest challenges to the success of SOCs are pride and apathy. If an individual group is too proud to work with others, then the group structure will remain just as fragmented as before. Also, if groups don’t feel like sending a representative to a meeting once a month, nothing will get better. What groups need to do is approach the SOC plan with an open mind and recognize that LUCC is trying to help groups do their “job,” which in return makes LUCC’s job easier.

3) What do you think LUCC needs to be careful/cautious about in implementing the new SOC regulations?

LUCC must be very careful about not making this plan seem like a fait accompli. While I cannot speak for the current administration, I intend to involve students and student groups in the implementation and further planning of the SOC, as well as LUCC representatives and cabinet members. This must not be viewed as a policy foisted on student organizations by LUCC, and I believe that the only long-lasting solution to an issue is consensus.

We also need to make sure this mechanism is not seen as a threat. I’ve heard rumblings about attaching attendance at an SOC to a group’s funding, which could easily be interpreted by a group as an implicit threat. I do not want to penalize groups — we’re all adults, not four-year-olds.

I think group leaders will probably recognize that this is not intended to make their lives difficult — rather, it’s intended to make groups function more fully and more easily. It is ultimately the choice of a group as to whether or not it wants to be involved with the rest of campus, and while I think it’s kind of a no-brainer as to which strategy an effective group ought to pursue, I’m not going to threaten anyone about it.

4) What is your personal opinion about the SOCs?

I would be lying if I said that I was always 100 percent behind the plan. When I first found out about it after my election, I was not particularly pleased to know that I was inheriting a large and complex new plan that I would either have to deal with or watch collapse into a flaming ruin around me. I have gradually warmed to the idea but, as noted in the headline article from this past week’s issue of The Lawrentian, I am cautiously optimistic.

I think the SOC has potential, but only if planned, sold and implemented correctly. The current administration has done a good job brainstorming and selling their idea to the campus community. However, the SOC plan is not ready to be fully implemented — we will only be running the entertainment sector next term, as a trial — and, because of that, it’s nowhere near ready to be put into formal legislation.

There are still several kinks to be ironed out in the actual structure of the plan before it can be fully implemented, and there’s also considerable “wordsmithing” to be done before we have an official legislative proposal for the General Council. But I’m confident that my administration and the current General Council can work on the weak points of the SOC plan so that we can produce a final result that will benefit the entire campus community.

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