One of the things I love about working at a public institution is the open nature of the student organization recognition process. Framed by an obligation to ensure student freedoms to associate, the array of requests that come through our office are truly creative and the points of common interest among our students seems limitless.
Yet, even with this open approach we still hear conflicting reviews over whether our campus has “enough” to offer students with clubs and organizations or whether there are too many.
Since the difference between “too many” and “not enough” seemed all over the map, I wanted to utilize the power of the Twitterverse to collect some information from campuses about their numbers. Feel free to visit the document (oh, and add your information while you are there!).
Now that we have all of this great information from so many campuses, it’s time to dig in! We are going to start some discussion as a department about what we want to take away from this information and I wanted all of you to join the conversation. Here are some questions we will be discussing.
1. Is there meaning behind the number of organizations on a campus?
We want to offer a broad variety of involvement opportunities to our students, right? Let’s acknowledge the fact that it speaks well to a prospective student when we can say “we have something for everyone here.” The logical next question should be whether they are all quality opportunities? Given we emphasize that student groups are, indeed, student groups, what’s the right “institutional” role if students are truly driving the process?
2. How do we design a recognition process for groups that keeps the doors as open as possible for our public institution, but use what we know about what contributes to groups that will last?
Putting up unnecessary hurdles isn’t how we want to operate, so what steps are truly necessary and lead to establishing groups with “staying power?” Some say our process is too easy and it leads to “too many” new groups. We have a variety of steps required to gain campus recognition, but what is the justification for adding process hurdles when we don’t know they lead to lasting success?
3. Staff isn’t getting any bigger and space for events, meetings and programs is limited. Is there ever a cap to how many groups a campus can accommodate?
If the opportunities are limitless and our staffing and resources are not, could there be a point where there are “too many” groups for us to accommodate on campus? Even a group that doesn’t do much programming will demand time and resources from student involvement staff as well as other service providers that support their events and organizational business.
On the hunt for the magic formula, we talked about the idea of looking at a ratio of enrolled students to the number of organizations. If there’s a ratio of 1200 students per one organization, I’d say that indicates more groups are needed. But, what is the optimum ratio? Does it change if the campus is public or private? Regardless of our obligations or policies, we all want to give students optimum learning experiences so I’m not sure it does.
I know that there are a lot more questions than answers in this post, but even some basic questions I posted via Twitter on the #sachat hashtag generated some good discussion so I thought you all needed to get in on this conversation.
Any magic formula information to share? Please post your comments! I’m curious about thoughts from the creative and resourceful readers of our blog!