The Students’ Association recently released its long-awaited feedback on the Mid-Year Report, which, as of last year, each group on campus is asked to file at the beginning of the spring. These documents include detailed reports of group events and self-assessment of groups’ abilities to benefit the entire campus community, encourage membership and differentiate themselves from other groups with similar missions.
It seems academic councils in the humanities suffered the most, with those in the humanities especially prone to finding out that they did not meet expectations for the 2010-11 year. Despite the precision expected of them in filling out these reports, the SA rendered its feedback with vague notes about whether they met or did not meet their expectations for the year, with little specificity as to how to better fulfill them — which is not surprising when one considers that the inherent nature of these councils makes it difficult for them to be completely responsive to the SA’s concerns.
This tension is symptomatic of the overall problem the SA has in managing these groups. As official liaisons between departments and students, academic councils are impossible to simply do away with: They could become parts of their respective departments, though this would strip them of various privileges afforded to SA-funded groups. In fiscal terms, academic councils are hamstrung by a flat-funding structure, ostensibly predicated on the fact that they have access to departmental funds. Lastly, these groups, by definition, are not meant to hold the general interest meetings or have the membership structure the SA requires — which, given their recognition as a distinct type of group on all official documentation, one would think was a known fact to the SA. Instead, they continue to exist in some kind of probationary limbo.
It seems that the SA has judged that these groups must behave just as their wealthier cousins in the sciences or the rest of the campus community. Otherwise, they are cursed to continue learning that they did not meet expectations they cannot fulfill.