The Social Affairs Committee, which previously served as the main funding body for all-campus events and parties, no longer exists, primarily because its function of providing alcohol funding for parties became obsolete last year. The Office of Student Engagement will take over this funding responsibility.
Co-President of Student Government Christine Kim ’17, who was previously a member of SAC, explained that a number of factors played a role in the decision to disband the committee and create a new funding process.
One of SAC’s primary purposes was to allocate alcohol money under the guise of DJ funding, Kim explained, referring to the practice by which clubs or groups hoping to host a party would bring a proposal to the committee asking for a certain amount of money to pay a DJ, and then use those funds to purchase alcohol instead. However, in the fall of 2014, SAC was no longer allowed to provide this “DJ funding.”
“Once that was gone, there was no point in SAC being there,” Kim said. All logistics for all-campus parties and events became the responsibility of the OSE, while SAC continued to make funding decisions, Kim explained.
According to Kim, this led to a great deal of miscommunication between the OSE and SAC and complicated the logistics of large-scale events such as Halloween and the winter formal. Additionally, the unpaid members of SAC were required to set up and clean up for these events, and were thus limited from fully participating in these events.
However, despite the elimination of DJ funding, SAC continued to provide party funding. Kim said that the fraternities consistently asked for, and were granted, between $200 and $300 each week for party decorations. For larger events, such as Delta Upsilon’s annual party during Worthstock, Margaritaville, SAC shelled out a more extensive amount.
Thus, even though SAC was no longer allowed to provide alcohol funding, students continued to ask for party funding, though Kim acknowledged that these funding requests were fraternity-heavy and that few other student groups requested money or held parties.
As SAC came to seem increasingly obsolete, Kim and Steve Sekula ’17, fellow co-president of SGO, met with the former and current heads of the Student Budget Committee, which distributes the student activities fee between groups, clubs, and SAC. The students discussed a new event-funding process and decided to streamline it all through the OSE.
Sekula explained that the OSE had created a new portal where students seeking funding could input all of their event information and ensure the security of party permits, equipment, and other necessities before receiving funding.
Kim elaborated on the multiple simplifying features of the new process. Formerly, when student groups holding events would receive funding from SAC, the committee would have to send liaisons to check that the groups were using the money for their stated purposes.
“This wasn’t being coordinated well,” Kim said, explaining that the OSE, meanwhile, would have to ensure that groups having parties had secured permits and were using wet spaces rather than dry ones, as well as coordinating other forms of event assistance such as Swat Team.
“The real purpose of SAC was really confusing for a lot of people,” Kim said. Students would attend SAC meetings, but their proposals would not fit under the bylines of what the committee funded, so they would be sent to the Forum for Free Speech, to seek departmental funding, to the OSE, or to the movie committee.
“They didn’t know where to go,” Kim said. Now, however, all of these funding bodies and more are available to select as possible sources, to be evaluated by the OSE, through the new funding portal.
Kim emphasized that students would still have some say over event funding.
“The OSE will maintain the student aspect of student input in funding decisions,” Kim said. Kim said that the OSE interns would have input into the funding decisions, along with whoever is hired to replace Assistant Director of Student Activities, Leadership, and Greek Life Mike Elias, who leaves the college to take a position at Haverford College this week.
Kim said she hopes that the new, simplified funding process will lead to an increase in parties by groups other than fraternities.
“We’re hoping that campus culture will revive Paces and Olde Club parties,” Kim said. “I think it’ll happen, because it’s a much cleaner process for smaller student groups to propose and they are now given a legitimate support system through the OSE.”
Kim added that she thought the process would be imperfect, but that SGO and others would be open to change.
“If we need to reevaluate and say, ‘this isn’t working out,’ I’m sure that SGO and other people who have the power to shift these processes will change them the way they need to be changed,” Kim said.
Two open meetings to explain the new funding process, as well as a revamped chartering process for groups and clubs, will be held on Monday from 7-8 PM and 8-9 PM.
Debates over and shifts to the ways in which the college funds alcohol for parties (or not) are not new. A Daily Gazette article by Lauren Stokes ’09 discusses that as early as 2005, students were concerned about the ways in which the college provides funding for alcohol.
“…The school must stop its de facto funding of alcohol for reasons of potential legal liability,” the article reads. “As a result, enforcement of SAC funding will become more strict. Not only has the administration been alerted to the most prevalent ‘work-arounds,’ but SAC will start asking party proposers specifically about where they’re getting money for alcohol,” the article reads, listing a number of other changes to the party funding process.
Like Kim and others, students in the past were concerned about the shifts in the college social scene that would occur if SAC stopped funding alcohol.
“Some students expressed concern that the fraternities would consume the party scene at Swarthmore, but most believed that ‘Swattie ingenuity’ would be able to overcome that danger,” Stokes wrote.
“Most students don’t want to lose the ‘free activities’ so important to Swarthmore culture, but a few students pointed out the fallacy of equating ‘activities’ with ‘Paces parties,’” Stokes continued. “These students hoped that the crackdown on alcohol funding would inspire ‘more open thinking about the student activities fee,’ inspiring proposals for new social events instead of more ‘tired’ Paces parties.”