The UMass administration is not your mother
A glance at history will show that as social systems become more complex, the entities that govern them become more restrictive and less popular. We have seen two primary solutions to this problem. Either their component parts become autonomous or their governments attempt to fix the system with rules. As people complain, they demand reform and put yet more rules in the books.
So, I have to wonder why the Center for Student Development (CSD) thinks it is a good idea to be as half as regulatory as it is.
To say it is difficult to get space for student organization events does not begin to describe the exhaustion getting even medium-quality space induces. I’m pretty sure the CSD has a ritualistic trial of honor and survival to secure the Student Union Ballroom or Campus Center Auditorium for a night. Imagine a “Lord of the Rings” challenge in a “Lord of the Flies” setting. That’s basically what they make you do.
Of course, this difficulty of getting space on campus for a student organization event is largely based on supply and demand. So it is not inappropriate to pause for a moment and question what kinds of Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) we should have and in what capacities we should have them. After all, part of the restrictiveness in these systems is the number of organizations that want different things while competing for limited resources (tax dollars). Before I continue any further, I need to make it expressly clear that I did the following to make no points whatsoever about individual groups or the topics with which they are concerned.
I went through the list of Registered Student Organizations and tallied about 40 groups that directly relate to race or racial topics. This number does not include racial fraternities and sororities, of which there are over a dozen. With the CSD reporting there are just over 200 organizations, this means that just about a quarter, if not more, of student groups are ethnic or racial in nature. Additionally, there are just about nine organizations excluding fraternities and sororities that are directly religious in nature. Think about this again: these comprise over 25 percent of all student groups. This is an awful lot of financial and spatial resource to extend to people based on race and religion.
The reason I mention this is because having such a disproportionate number of groups related to political correctness feeds into a larger mechanism that makes the student organization system clunky and rigid.
So, what do people expect the administration to about it? Apparently, since space is limited, some think we need more bureaus with more regulation, their rational being that it will preserve space and reduce chaos. But in reality, all we get are more technicalities and reasons to resent a system that defines individual freedom as a governing body allowing its subjects to act rather than its subjects allowing its organizers to govern.
The criteria that must be met for events in order to be condoned by the CSD are so prohibitive and jungle-thick that they cease to contribute to the welfare of people and have actual paralyzing effects on student groups.
Take, for instance, a simple event like playing a night movie on a quadrangle. Fixing a projector requires ground stakes. Underground utilities cannot possibly be damaged by these, as they are set at a level under the soil much deeper than the stakes could possibly penetrate. Yet the CSD demands we spend hundreds of dollars hiring inspection companies for this very reason.
Events that involve distribution of food apparently require the presence of emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Why? Is it because someone might choke and require medical help? Should we not, therefore, have EMTs stationed in the cafeterias for the same contingencies? Of course, we should not. People choke and die. It happens. But if the administration has to take responsibility for it, then apparently we have to spend thousands of dollars a year protecting its hide from legal ramifications.
Truly it can be said the issue stems fundamentally from accountability. The money we spend protecting the administration from lawsuit abuse and the systematic disregard for supply and demand in favor of maintaining a shallow politically correct image has completely ruined organization fluidity. Regulations pop up wherever there is liability to be shared or blame to be allotted. The government is not your mother, and neither is the Center for Student Development.
Brian Benson is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.