May 2, 2008

Where funding goes to die

RSO Annual Allocations funding results won’t be announced for a week, but the reaction will likely be the same as always. Once again, Student Government (SG) will have shortchanged your beloved RSO and inexplicably provided thousands of dollars to a bunch of undeserving chumps.

Given SG’s limited funds, a large amount of griping is inevitable. The process, however, does raise an important question: How does a group of students obtain approval to become a RSO, therefore gaining access to hundreds of thousands of dollars distributed by SG each year?

As it currently stands, students interested in forming an RSO must first gain the approval of the Committee On Recognized Student Organizations (CORSO), a body consisting of three SG members and three students appointed by ORCSA. To gain CORSO’s approval, a prospective RSO must line up a faculty or staff adviser, at least eight interested students, and craft a unique mission statement. Groups approved by CORSO are then subject to final authorization by ORCSA.

Despite its seemingly benign mandate, CORSO has the unfortunate effect of stifling competition among student organizations. For example, a group of students who believe they can outperform the UCDems in representing campus Democrats will have its RSO application rejected by CORSO as redundant.

Such a rationale encourages complacency among current student groups. RSOs are given automatic monopolies on representing certain sections of the student body or providing certain services merely because they happen to have been created first. CORSO protects existing RSOs from being usurped by upstarts but also shields them from a sense of urgency and gives them little incentive to try unique or different programming that might appeal to more students.

The student body would be best served if CORSO were abolished. ORCSA could still require prospective organizations to fill out applications; groups just wouldn’t be vetted beforehand. If ORCSA fears being short-staffed by a flood of new RSO applications, it could compensate by dropping the requirement that RSOs be automatically assigned advisers. Such a step would allow student organizations to become more responsible, as they wouldn’t have an adviser holding their hand through the funding process, all while freeing well run RSOs from burdensome and unnecessary oversight.

Ultimately, the student body is the best judge of whether an RSO deserves to exist and receive part of our student activities fee. If students join an RSO, it’s worthwhile; if they don’t, it’s unnecessary. There’s no compelling reason students’ ability to choose should be hampered by six U of C students tasked with enforcing excessive bureaucracy and protecting a non-competitive funding system.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.