Opinion | Unclear guidelines for student org leaders hinder activism

Hannah Petillo, Contributing Columnist

Hailie Goldthorpe

As a student leader on Tulane’s campus, I often find myself at a loss for the regulations and policies under which I am supposed to manage my organization. My organizational advisor provides as much help as they can, but I often find that they too have been left in the dark on Tulane policies both new and old. Finding a way to clarify these uncertainties is complex; knowing who to contact is often a guessing game and finding the person in charge of any particular area of organizational policy is often like finding a needle in a haystack. Between my organization’s advisor, the unclear reformation process of the University Student Government and the labyrinthian chain of contact for Tulane’s Administration, I often find myself with email chains a dozen deep just trying to answer a simple question about organization procedure. Fellow student leaders are sometimes left off critical email lists for no reason. These lists can contain information regarding budget submission or the Activities Expo, which can leave student leaders unaware of deadlines and other necessary information. 

Tulane has plenty of resources for its student organizations, but fails to advertise them. The Student Organization Center has both physical and informational resources that I have only ever discovered due to word of mouth from other campus leaders. Information such as who to contact regarding policy, event submission issues, or budgeting is difficult to find on WaveSync. A simple email at the beginning of each semester, sent to all registered student organization executive board members — whose email addresses Tulane most certainly has — containing a comprehensive list of resources and contact information would solve many of these issues.

Currently, Tulane’s best attempts are small reminder emails containing information on upcoming in-person meetings. However, these meetings are unrecorded and not every student leader can attend these meetings due to scheduling conflicts.

The Tulane administration often seems unclear about its own rules and is unable to give clear answers to student leaders. In late April of 2022, the Louisiana State Legislature introduced several harmful transphobic and homophobic laws to committee. Local advocacy organizations quickly mobilized in response to protest and lobby at the state capitol in Baton Rouge. As the laws, one of which was a near direct copy of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, would have had direct impact on Tulane students, I worked to mobilize the Tulane Queer Student Alliance to accompany the local activists at the state capitol. To obtain funding for transportation to Baton Rouge I had to submit an event request on WaveSync. This request was promptly denied for not meeting the three-week pre-event submission window, despite the fact that the bills had only been introduced in the legislature a week before, and the lobbying push was organized just that same week. A Tulane administrator commented on the submission asking if we wanted to “use [our] organization’s one-time late-event exemption?” That comment was the first time in my three years of being a student leader that I had heard of a one-time late event exemption. When the administrator was asked to clarify whether this exemption was one-time per semester, year or for the organization’s entire lifetime, there was no response. It was only with the assistance of staff in the Office for Gender and Sexual Diversity, who are well-versed in fighting through Tulane’s bureaucracy, that we were able to have the event approved and obtain funding for transportation. Such harsh and unclear regulations are commonplace among Tulane administration, and we are, as of the time of writing, still yet to receive any clarification on how this late-event exemption works or how it can be utilized.

Student leaders provide abundant free labor to make our campus a diverse place full of activity and joy. Tulane is more than happy to flaunt this diversity when recruiting new students and soliciting donations, but they seem incapable of paying us back with the support we need. My fellow student leaders, especially those of us leading organizations advocating for minority identities such as the Black Student Union and the Gender Exploration Society, often hold jobs off-campus. In fact, many hold multiple. Financially supporting oneself while attending an exorbitantly expensive university, dealing with a predatory housing market and living through a global pandemic leaves us burning the candle at both ends. This is not just to survive but to try and make where we go to school somewhere that we actually want to be. New scholarships for student leaders, or truly any increase in financial support for students, would go a long way in promoting equity among student organizations — which Tulane claims to care so much about. 

Being a student leader is a hard job. The hours are irregular, the work is constant and it often feels like an uphill battle to get anything done, but in the end, it’s a job I’d never give up. It’s the most rewarding way I can think of to spend the time I have here.

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