This editorial expresses the views of a member of the College Council Administration Committee and College Council Executive Board.
There are currently 141 official student clubs on Emory’s campus. That number excludes clubs sponsored under the Emory Sports Council, the BBA Council, the Media Council, Oxford campus, the graduate school and other academic offices.
Of the 141 undergraduate clubs that exist, 122 (over 86 percent) qualify for funding from College Council (CC). Each semester, CC has just over $150,000 in its contingency pot to help fund all of these student groups. Using simple math most people can understand why CC declared a “financial state of emergency” last week: too much demand, not enough supply.
But the basic supply and demand perspective leaves out what is actually an array of bigger problems at work. In reality, not all 122 chartered clubs come to CC for funding; some are self-sufficient, several require only a small operational funding and others are just inactive. Yet in spite of that fact, CC, in the least esoteric language possible, almost ran out of money. But why?
One reason has been the chartering reforms passed by the Student Government Association last year. The reforms greatly relaxed the chartering procedures and requirements (abolishing the waiting period, dialing down the membership clause and establishing a new charter dichotomy). There are simply more clubs asking for more money.
The second reason is CC’s monetary policy. The policy fundamentally lacks an enumerated “frugality clause.” The legislators cannot, by decorum, call into suspect the wisdom of a club’s choice in the make-up of a club event. It may suggest cost-saving tips, but it cannot impose said tips.
The CC legislators should have the power and flexibility to request a respectable level of frugality from clubs when they make their choices on events. Some cost factors, such as competitions and registration fees, are beyond a club’s control, which the CC should take into account, but the monetary policy ought to be aligned to encourage fiscal discretion.
A third and final reason has been the disheartening mix of fraud, extravagance and squandering by the clubs themselves.
These clubs should first acknowledge that Emory is home to an unbelievably diverse assortment of clubs. Some are broadly oriented, catering to the entire community. Others are more select, offering the joys of association to those who seek its particular field of politics, culture, philosophy, academics, service or faith. They advance, without question, an indispensable part of college life and higher education.
That being said, there is also no denying that there are a few bad apples in the mix. There are clubs whose activities have been wasteful, lavish and whose funding has been exaggerated through fraudulent or deceptive means. These few irresponsible clubs take advantage of the CC chartering/funding system and thereby deprive each student a small share of his or her student activity fee. They deceive CC and breach the trust its elected members have extended to all clubs in good faith.
This abuse must change. A good first step would be to create a committee of accountability to enforce and review the authenticity of a club’s reported costs. Such a step, however, must be attached to a reform of the CC monetary policy that reins in potential excessiveness.
There is a silent consensus that CC is a slot machine without any risk. I myself have heard open bragging by those on club executive boards who admit to always asking for more than what their events require so that they can be more extravagant with their choice of foods and decorations. Some even admit to stockpiling funds for extra goodies later on.
During my time on the CC Administration Committee, I have seen open omissions of truth by clubs seeking a charter. The Administration Committee just last week discovered fraudulent claims on a club’s charter application (the said club, well aware of its deceit, then had the gall to request over $10,000 from CC).
CC has become the butt of a smug joke and we can blame no one but ourselves. The question of whether or not to finally rein in the excess and impose accountability is not only a matter of keeping CC’s financial house in order, but about rebranding our reputation and fixing the status quo so that the extravagance and falsehoods of the few irresponsible clubs do not detrimentally hurt the rest who have remained responsible and honest.
If we do not make the necessary changes to compel such responsibility, then we truly should change our initials from CC to ATM.
Doo Lee is a College sophomore from Suwanee, Ga.
Illustration by Doo Lee