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  • BureacracyIn Activist Trap #1 and Activist Trap #2 we wrote that apologizing and appeasing the Left are perhaps the two greatest traps most activists fall victim to. The next is not understanding your school’s bureaucracy. An activist can severely hinder his group by not properly following the school’s rules in regards to funding, contractual obligations when hosting speakers, posting flyers, and other items.

    Leftist college administrators love to create endless “rules” and “guidelines.” They are government bureaucrats in training and temperament. Understanding the inner workings of the bureaucracy is a necessary evil, but it will make your life easier. As a club leader, you at least need to know how to reserve a room for a meeting and how to gain permission to set-up a recruitment table on campus. Frequently, the only way you can do this is by speaking with someone in your student activities office. If you are new to campus activism, you will surely want to plan more ambitious events and programs, but keep in mind that will require more interaction with your campus bureaucracy and administration. 

    If you are not familiar with your school’s bureaucracy in terms of how it impacts student clubs, one of the first things you should do is visit your campus’ student activities office. Your school should have a booklet or website available which will explain many of the rules student groups must follow if they are to be affiliated with the college or university.

    You should look into the following on your campus:

    Group Maintenance: Most universities have different requirements in order for a club to become a chartered organization. As described in previous chapters, you will most likely need a constitution and by-laws. However, even once your club is recognized, you will still need to continually provide the school with information and attend yearly meetings in order to maintain your status.

    Requirements may include one or all of the following:

    1. Maintaining an officer list with the student activities office: Your school may require you to submit names and information of students who make up the executive board or officers of your club.

    2. Recruit a faculty advisor: Some schools require your club to have a faculty advisor in order to be chartered. You may be asked to complete paperwork each year designating who is your club’s advisor.

    3. Meetings with school administrators and club officers: The number and type of meetings can vary depending on the school. Usually these occur at the beginning of the fall semester. On some campuses, only the club treasurer will be required to attend a meeting on the school’s funding process, how to maintain the club’s budget, and how to access the club’s account. On the other hand, the entire executive board may be mandated to attend several sessions on the administrative process and resources available to student clubs, among other items. If you do not attend these meetings, your club might not be eligible to receive student or school funds.

    Rules on Advertising: Universities have different policies on how clubs advertise meetings and events. On some campuses, you will need an administrator’s approval for every flier that you post. Others may allow you to post anything as long as the school recognizes your club. The same may be true for chalking.

    Chalking is frequently done on many campuses but often students don’t check if it is allowed. Leftist groups usually skirt these rules and can get away with chalking. Yet when conservatives chalk the campus, administrators are quick to admonish the club for doing so. Sometimes penalties for breaking these rules can be bizarre or severe. Punishments can include suspension of charter, loss of funds, or cancelling of the event.

     As an alternative, you may be allowed to post yardsticks on campus grounds with your fliers attached to advertise an event. However you will probably need to get approval from the landscaping department. 

    Understanding your school’s posting rules will ensure your club will not jeopardize its status for posting a flyer in the wrong location.

    Distribution of Funds: Following the correct procedure to secure school funds, particularly for speakers, can be confusing. However, it is important that you do not take this process lightly, as there can be severe repercussions if the rules are not followed properly.

    If you are hosting a speaker through your club, you are most likely going to pay the speaker at least a nominal honorarium and/or travel and accommodation expenses. Whether the speaker is brought through Young America’s Foundation or not, it is likely that you will have to complete a contract with your university. The contract explains when and how the funds will be distributed and also protects the university and your club if anything unforeseen should happen negatively impacting the status of the event.

    A university may have different contractual procedures depending on the amount the speaker is charging. For example, speakers charging less than $1,000 may require a university contract with signatures from you and the speaker and/or his agent.

    However, if you host a more prominent speaker who charges upwards of $20,000, you may be required to have several offices sign off on the event. New activists are often surprised to learn of the severe punishments that can occur if the process is not handled properly.  At some schools, clubs are fortunate to receive tens of thousands of dollars to host speakers. However, some are not allowed to begin promotion until the university has signed a contract. If they do, they can lose their funding and their charter!

    The more you understand your school’s bureaucracy the easier it will be to accomplish your objectives. Also, do not overlook informing your group’s new leadership of the school’s rules. Once they take over, you do not want them to fall into this trap. Finally, knowing these procedures will make it easier to receive funds, thereby effectively challenging the Left.

    • Readers' Comments

    • What a great point you raise, Pat. By breaking the rules either on purpose or through ignorance, you lose any moral highground and shift the dicussion from bias against your cause to a legitimate failure to follow posted policy. We have too much working against us on campuses already to let bureaucracy trip us up!! PLUS, by getting involved in the administration NICELY and not assuming they are "out to get you" or shut you down (always, always treat staff with respect. You can pitch a fit in the dean's office, but you're sunk if you tick off his secretary!) you can actually bolster your group's reputation and make it easier to host bigger, better events in the future. Invite administrators to your events, even if you don't "want" them to come -- it's just good manners.
      Posted by Elana on 09/03/2010
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