Anyone who runs a club at the University of Connecticut is probably unsurprised that UConn is among the 10 worst colleges for free speech, according to the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education. In relation to clubs, their attitude towards first amendment rights is horrendous. Their approach to free association and allowing meetings on campus is byzantine, bloated and should be abolished. If UConn truly trusts its students to make their own decisions, then why does it insist upon making us go through hours of modules of little to no value?
The University of Connecticut should radically change its approach to clubs on campus and give students significantly more discretion about running organizations. All Student Organization Leaders Intentional Development (SOLID) trainings should be optional, and membership requirements or constitution submissions should not be grounds for a club to be frozen. Without significantly curtailing SOLID, students will waste increasing amounts of time filling out paperwork, and UConn will continue to struggle to create leaders.
After talking to leaders of other organizations, I have grown convinced the University of Connecticut prefers students to not get involved than risk potential liability. It is an open secret that the trainings in place are completely useless and everyone, including SOLID employees know and joke about the idiocy. Even worse, SOLID’s advice is actively counterproductive. My friend from improv told me that SOLID’s approach to harassment is to distract the harasser with a YouTube video while one whisks the victim away to a safe location. That advice sounds like it came out of a bad improv skit. If these kernels of wisdom are what one learns at appointments only offered several times a week, and often during class times, then the system is a failure.
Others have approached me to tell me that getting sanctioned on campus is oftentimes not worthwhile. The emcee of improv told me, “Spice club is an unsanctioned off-the-book club that SOLID never bothered to respond to.” Katie, president of AI club, told me “My club just opened a People’s Bank account instead of dealing with the SABO account because of the red tape.” Turning Point’s president stated that “RSO’s prefer to raise their own funds than deal with funding requests because of the frustrating red tape.” I find it extremely frustrating that as students, we are expected to put the effort of a full-time job into our studies; then, rather than making getting involved easy, we are forced into trainings at inconvenient times, get frozen for months at a time and are told that we can only fill out forms online for paperwork that takes weeks to process.
Furthermore, as an Registered Student Organization (RSO) leader myself, I’ve learned firsthand how bad SOLID is. My personal disdain of SOLID started when I helped form the Young Americans for Liberty chapter on campus. Under the regulations of UConn, groups are not allowed to meet in classrooms, table, hold any events, advertise or recruit until they are recognized. However, one needs at least eight students to be involved in order to create the club, effectively creating a Catch-22. Furthermore, since SOLID takes weeks to respond to people, combines virtual forms and paperwork and mislead students about funding deadlines, the system needs to be burnt to the ground.
While one may be tempted to think that SOLID is only problematic because of an ineffective missive or failed communication, they would be wrong. The truth is that bureaucracy begets bureaucracy and the incentive structure of the heaps of bureaucrats is not the same as ours. Bureaucrats gain power, prestige and wealth as they increase their responsibilities and add to their staff, so they actively look for ways to make themselves essential by documenting nonsense, asking for titles that mean nothing and wasting everyone’s time.
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Isadore Johnson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.