In an ironic twist of events, Gulf Coast Culture Day – an event created by the Student Association and Program Board to raise funds for hurricane victims – rapidly dissipated after five minutes of light rain. After weeks of planning, the legacy of Gulf Coast Culture Day is the SA’s ignorance in failing to utilize the abilities of the smaller student organizations that reside toward the bottom of its budget. In an attempt to “unite” the philanthropic urges of so many GW student organizations, the SA’s looming control only stifled those urges. The SA lacked the communication, organization and action to lead properly.
It was difficult for smaller student organizations to have a hands-on part in the festivities; with the SA, this is not a new phenomenon. To get events of a significant size arranged, smaller student organizations must go through a mound of red tape to receive money from the SA through a process called “co-sponsorship.” If a smaller student organization wants to put on a benefit concert and does not have the funds in its private treasury, members can ask the SA to help them sponsor the event. Subsequently, the SA gets their name on it, and the smaller student organization gets the responsibility of planning.
In theory, this is what was supposed to happen this weekend. This is the method by which the “$35,000 of additional funds” promised by President Audai Shakour is delivered to student organizations. However, this is not what happened. Total responsibility was dumped on an already busy Program Board, rather than thoughtfully delegated to many smaller enthusiastic single-issue organizations – many of which had the time and membership to devote to make the event work.
Gulf Coast Culture Day provides an ideal example of the SA’s funding failures. Smaller student organizations have to go through the SA to get money. When events are organized through the SA – such as Gulf Coast Culture Day – the events are poorly planned due to unnecessary bureaucracy and hierarchy within the SA. Smaller organizations become discouraged with the process and further association with the SA. Yet, the SA sees fit only to allocate smaller, more effective organizations funding that is drastically lower than what was requested. Therefore, organizations remain bound by poverty to continually rely on the SA, an organization blatantly ignorant of the impact these smaller orgs have on campus.
Program Board and the SA, though vast in size and funds, remain unable to adequately advertise an event as important as a Katrina Relief Rally to the student body. Such a deficiency shows that these organizations stand almost completely out of touch with those they are meant to represent and whose money they so readily spend. It also is a sign that the efforts put forth to make Gulf Coast Culture day a success were done only half-heartedly.
Those smaller student orgs that did participate in Gulf Coast Culture Day showed “dedication that GW students have to helping Katrina survivors” (“Event unsettles leaders,” Oct. 6, p. 5), not so much through their thwarted attempts at fundraising, but by managing to maintain extraordinary patience in dealing with the uninterested and untouchable SA and Program Board.
The SA cannot lead until it can learn to delegate responsibility effectively. It must develop a thorough understanding of and trust in the exceptional ability that smaller student organizations have to run successful events. By attempting to conduct a “consolidated effort,” the SA only furthered the dividing line between large, bloated student organizations and their smaller, poorer counterparts. If the SA continues to ignore and remain insensitive to the capabilities and needs of smaller student organizations, it will continue to lead students into category five failures.
-The writer is a sophomore majoring in
American studies and art history.