ast year, the VSA voted to approve a resolution that decisively changed the process for organization-creation at Vassar. Beforehand, it fell solely to the discretion of the Vice President for Activities and the VSA Council to reclassify student organizations into VSA-certified organizations. Among many other privileges, VSA-certified organizations can receive a budget and apply for spaces. Starting this year, the VSA has begun a Preliminary Organization process, which allows preliminary organizations to apply for limited accessibility to funds and resources.
While we at The Miscellany News applaud the VSA’s revamped organization approval process, we believe this new system would benefit from increased transparency in how startup and collaborative funds are allocated to these budding organizations.
We commend the VSA for successfully implementing the preliminary organization process so far. This implementation is an important, bold step in creating a more clear, regulated process for student organizations to seek and receive VSA-certification, especially compared to the old, inefficient system.
But, despite the good intentions behind this new process, the current process—its policies, procedures and goals—remain murky.
For example, the only documentation that currently explains preliminary organization procedures is outlined in the VSA bylaws. Any number of scenarios and circumstances that an organization will face are omitted from the bylaws, making the procedure all the more difficult to navigate. If a student organization wishes to apply for preliminary organization status, it is unclear when they should contact the Activities Committee. Should the organization apply for preliminary status in its infancy or after operating without VSA assistance for some time?
How organizations should follow this process and how the VSA will determine which preliminary organizations deserve certification status also need explanation. We appreciate that the VSA has designated liaisons to guide organizations through the process, but the Activities Committee hasn’t stated specifically what, beyond three semesters of activity as a preliminary organization, qualifies a group for VSA-certification and if all organizations must follow exactly the same guidelines. Furthermore, if there are additional policies or goals, the Activities Committee should communicate this to students and organizations clearly.
The VSA must make clear the various policies and procedures needed to acquire more funding. Funding is difficult for numerous groups on campus, but preliminary student organizations are especially limited. They can only apply for up to $200 per semester. This cap does not consider the many start-up funds that an organization may demand. Furthermore, if a student organization requires more funds than the $200 allotment, the process for obtaining extra funding is difficult.
The VSA should allow preliminary organizations to procure startup funds on a case-by-case basis through the Capital and Discretionary funds with the Finance Committee’s consent. Already, the Finance Committee’s goal is to determine whether organizations ought to receive funding beyond their allotted budgets. They should apply the same discretion with preliminary organizations, who may offer convincing reasons for extra funds.
Discussions within the VSA about the preliminary organization process included fundraising and intra-club collaboration as tools for organizations to boost their budget. But the VSA has offered little documentation, clarification or support. While resources like the Collaboration Fund and Discretionary Fund may help alongside fundraising, preliminary organizations cannot access vCard machines, for example. On a campus where many students carry vCards but not cash, this limits how much funds the organization may raise.
The VSA should continue to support and promote new organizations through the preliminary process. But it should also seek methods for clarifying its policies and explaining the procedures to preliminary organizations and organizations hoping to apply for preliminary status. We understand that the newness of this procedure makes it difficult to predict and preempt the many potential scenarios, but we encourage the VSA to create and disseminate clearer documentation for the whole process. The preliminary organization process should operate as a support network for budding organizations seeking future VSA certification and the chance to further contribute to the Vassar community.
—The Staff Editorial represents the opinion of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.