For Clubs, BC3 Must Put Money Where Mouth Is
By: Dylan Sitterly Assistant Editor
At Butler County Community College’s (BC3) Welcome Day last summer, I made one of the best decisions of my life by signing up for Writer’s Club.
I didn’t know then how many great friends I would meet, how much I’d grow as a writer and a person, or how many doors it would open.
But Director of Student Life and Athletics Rob Snyder had told us that it was the best way to become part of the campus community, and I took his word for it.
Now, as vice president to two clubs, and the assistant editor for your student newspaper, I can confidently say that the club experience can really be a difference maker in your education.
However, there have been some troubling developments this semester around the college’s support for studentrun organizations on campus; Evidence of a weakening foundation, a bureaucratic sinkhole that will become a roadblock for club participation.
BC3 is a commuter school, with two-year curriculums, and a small number of full-time faculty. These factors present obvious difficulties for club organization. Students, often working part or full-time jobs, have circumstances arise which prevent them from attending campus at all.
The faculty members who serve as club advisors, for which they are not compensated for the extra responsibility, are frequently busy, and need to rely on students to manage the club’s day-to-day.
However, by the time a student, even an exceptional one, can grasp their duties as a club officer, they will be on the verge of graduation or transfer from BC3. This will leave the new leadership group with big shoes to fill and a quick transition.
Despite these difficulties, clubs have managed to grow in numbers and influence on campus. This year showed yet another increase in active clubs across BC3 but, not an extra penny to support them.
This could potentially represent the dying light of the golden age for BC3’s clubs.
A staple of the administration’s past financial support for student clubs was referred to as ‘the point system,’ a confusing, arcane guideline for distributing funds. In practice, though, it basically boiled down to the idea that more active clubs would receive more money from the administration.
While fundraising would still be necessary for expensive projects, small clubs with low operating costs could earn a decent budget by contributing value to the school through on-campus events and activities.
This budget enabled clubs to expand the scope of their ideas, which often led to positive coverage of the school and a bump in prestige. BC3’s public relations department frequently mines club activities for their press releases.
While the economic impact that coverage has had on the college is difficult to quantify, coverage of these events instill pride in the students and staff. This, along with an addition to student morale, for both club members and those who participate in club-sponsored activities, is an outstanding return.
Unfortunately, this ‘point system’ was unceremoniously abolished, with no equivalent system on the horizon. In the meantime, clubs were instead encouraged to directly fundraise for their budget, an intimidating proposition for most clubs, which are ill-suited for the responsibilities of managing a small nonprofit. Aside from that, the school will only provide a flat amount to each club’s budget at the start of each semester.
With a personnel reshuffle affecting Student Life over the summer, you would rightly expect there to be an adjustment period.
The college’s new Assistant Director of Student Life & Activities, Jocelyn Csernyik, to her credit, made an effort to keep clubs informed of these changes as they happened. Faculty advisors and club officers were invited to attend an All-Clubs Meeting with a brief explanation and an opportunity for Q&A.
But still, there was a lingering sense of doubt and confusion for those involved heavily with club operations. It would soon become clear that the simple changes outlined in the meetings actually had wide-ranging, deleterious effects.
What’s more, despite the decreased financial support, BC3 has actually exerted more control over how the budget can be used.
Any purchase must be requested from Csernyik two to three weeks in advance and then purchased directly by her. This is in direct contrast to the old system of making a direct purchase out-ofpocket and then submitting receipts for reimbursement.
There are likely liability reasons for this change that justify the inconvenience, but the effect on clubs is debilitating. In my experience, the most successful club events have as short a run-up time as possible, to keep it fresh in the minds of the busy students who comprise the membership.
Not to mention the annoyance of being unable to purchase basic club supplies like post-it notes or art supplies without a fortnight’s notice.
Snyder and Csernyik are aware of these concerns, as evidenced by an email sent out to club advisors October 18 addressing these changes.
But I want to be clear: this story has no villains. Everyone involved, whether they be students, faculty, or administration, are simply trying to make the best of their circumstances. Snyder and Csernyik recognize the importance of clubs, and I have no doubt they are working on new ways to support them going forward.
But the Cube’s reporting shows that Student Life & Activities has a tight budget, with very little money to spread around between athletics, clubs, and official Student Life events.
The onus must then be on BC3’s administration to either allocate clubs the money they need or admit that student clubs are no longer the priority they once were – despite the college’s designation as the number one community college in Pennsylvania for three years in a row, according to Schools.com.
As for the clubs, they just want evidence of the school’s support. They want proof that BC3 perceives them as something more than vestigial, or worse, an empty marketing ploy.
If you are going to tell folks like me to invest in the college’s clubs and the campus community, you better not be wasting our time. It’s time the college puts its money where its mouth is.