Student government disbands club council, replaces with new committee

Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star Reporter
Dec. 6, 2011

On Nov. 20, the UAF student government voted to disband club council and replace it with a committee. The new committee will provide clubs with funding, student president Mari Freitag said.

The committee will continue to act as a bridge between UAF’s student organizations and the Associated Student of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (ASUAF), the student government, Freitag said.

“It’s pulling teeth trying to get people to sit on committees,” said Josh Hovis, the Leadership, Involvement, Volunteer Experience (LIVE) assistant coordinator for student organizations. Hovis helped organize the UAF Quidditch Club last year and experienced his own share of issues while on the council.

Most clubs only send representatives to council meetings in order to secure funding, Hovis said.

“The finance committee is the only committee people were interested in being on,” he added. The finance committee oversaw the distribution of funds to the student clubs on campus. This semester, 47 clubs received $16,500.

The council was a time sink and burdened with too much procedure, Freitag said. She added that club representatives didn’t understand the council’s rules of procedure and it was difficult to explain it to them. Freitag was vice president last year and served as the council’s chair.

“The most appropriate way to fix the problem was to create a smaller committee,” she said.

The new committee will be composed of at least 13 members: eight club representatives, the student vice president, a member selected by the LIVE Office and three non-voting members. The non-voting members include the student president, the AUSAF office manager and the senate chair.

While the bill addresses the selection process for committee members, the wording is vague.

“The other eight voting members of the committee shall be selected by Club representatives by the first week of October,” Senate Bill (SB) 177-018 reads, adding that the selection shall be coordinated by the student vice president and the LIVE office. The bill does not include criteria for membership, nor does it dictate how the members will be selected or the duration of their terms. The bill says if members are not selected by the second week of October, the senate will have the power to appoint committee members.

Instead of council meetings, clubs will send a representative to a training session prior to receiving funds. The only topic at the training explicitly stated in the legislation will be on the appropriate uses of the funding clubs receive. Clubs are expected to send representatives to the training sessions every semester. The student government does not offer official training for its executive branch or senators.

“I’m excited to see the implementation of fresh ideas for UAF students,” president of the UAF Film Club  Kalesha Pearson, wrote in an email. The council’s existence allowed clubs to network amongst themselves and student government representatives, Pearson wrote.

“From what I understand the new method will allow student organizations to continue [to network] and obtain funds in a responsible manner,” she wrote. Pearson has attended club council meetings for the past three semesters.

“I think it’s a violation of student rights,” said Jay Leonard, a former student vice president and recent UAF graduate. The council provided students with an avenue for having their voice heard directly by the student government, he said. “Even though [the avenue] was underused, it existed,” he added.

The networking and community aspect was an important function the council provided, Leonard said. “Unless they found some avenue to replace that [aspect] then I think its going to be a great loss to the UAF community as a whole,” he said. Leonard was a student representative for the Socratic Society and served on the council’s rules committee during the Spring 2011 semester.

For Leonard, dissolving the council sounds like a cop-out. “’This is tough so we’re just going to get rid of it.’ That’s what this feels like,” Leonard said. He added that ten voting members were not enough to represent the diversity of clubs on campus.

“There were issues with the council and it was difficult, but once people were there they found value, Leonard said. “But, it was a challenge getting people there for anything more the money,” he said.

The dissolution would not take students’ voices away, Freitag said. “It was all about trying to fix something that I found was inefficient and essentially broken,” Freitag said. “It’s making all of their lives easier.”

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