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Related Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia
SOAR No More? Student Services in Danger at UCSC
by Deborah Lao and Dennis Solis (via. heavy traf (savesoar [at] hotmail.com)
Wednesday May 22nd, 2002 12:34 AM
Students who attended the May 7th Student Union Assembly meeting noticed that John Holloway, director of Student Development and Community Service (SDCS), was tight lipped about his plans and hesitant to discuss them in front of the whole assembly. When Oakes student Nick Javier asked Holloway to present on the SOAR reorganization, Holloway refused.
soar_logo.jpg
["SOAR No More?" is the most updated account of the reorganization process' planned for student organizations at UCSC. This article was originally published in City on a Hill Press (CHP) on May 16, 2002. CHP is the main weekly publication at UCSC and is available at many locations both on campus and in the greater Santa Cruz community. Please disseminate this article widely, and encourage interested parties to contact savesoar [at] hotmail.com

Alumni, please make sure to send your letters as soon as possible.]

To view one of the 'controversial emails' about this issue, please visit:

http://santacruz.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=962&group=webcast

* YOUR COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE ARE APPRECIATED *

-----

SOAR No More? Student Services in Danger

Deborah Lao and Dennis Solis
Multicultural Desk Writers

Students are caught up in the whirlwind of rumors that have been circulating around the administration's possible plans to dissolve the Student Organization and Advising Resource (SOAR) office, a main artery of student services that sponsors and support all student run organizations and programs on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Although no official statement has been released regarding the plans, students campus wide have expressed their concern over the motives behind the changes, which leads them to ask, "if it ain't broke why fix it?"

The controversy over the future, or lack thereof, of SOAR revolves around the fact that Student Affairs has been tight lipped about reorganization plans. Charging students with spreading misinformation, administration has argues that these rumors are unfounded. However, students claim that because administration has withheld information, they were left with no choice but to speculate about the potential pairing down of resources to students.

The SOAR office is home to 105 student organizations that address ethnic, cultural, women's, queer, political, and social interests of UCSC students. Contrary to popular belief, only forty-five or 40 percent of the groups are categorized as ethnic or cultural organizations. Every year over a hundred organizations register in the fall, and according to SOAR over 600 students are currently participating in student organizations. The process is open to any four students who complete an Application to Register, attend an orientation, and submit a constitution.

While serving a multicultural group of students, SOAR staff provide various types of support-providing advice on logistics, fundraising, conflict resolution, and leadership development. SOAR, along with the Women's Center, Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Resource Center (GLBTRC), and the ethnic resource centers, is a component of Student Affairs within the Student Development and Community Service (SDCS) cluster directed by John Holloway.

CRIES AND WHISPERS

Talks hinting at the dismantling of SOAR first arose during fall quarter during the debates around space allocations in the Student Union. In an email sent by Student Center Director Tara Crowley to the Student Union Assembly (SUA), Crowley tried to quell student unrest by saying that a space, which the board originally set aside to house the SOAR office, should be considered in the allocation talks.

Crowley wrote, "SOAR is undergoing a reorganization which may result in the reassignment of 3 staff members to other student support services. In the event that the currently allotted SOAR space on the second floor is underutilized, it would seem an ideal location for the SOAR retention interns, since they are part of that office."

This informal announcement shocked students, who were surprised that administration felt SOAR needed reorganization at all. Leo Grandison, External Vice Chair of SUA told City on a Hill Press (CHP), "First of all, we need to see if there's something wrong with SOAR. Because if students feel that there's nothing's wrong with it, why do you need to fix it?"

When Crowley announced that she would occupy the space previously allotted by the Student Center Governance Board to house the SOAR retention interns, students realized that she had already taken steps to prepare for SOAR's demise.

A PLAN BASED ON OBSERVATIONS

SDCS Executive Director John Holloway called the rumors a "disservice" to the plan he proposed to the SDCS cluster of Student Media, SOAR, and the ethnic, queer, and women's resource centers.

Based on his observations, he believes that SOAR's current structure cannot support the eminent growth of the university-having only 3 full-time advisors solely responsible for over 100 student organizations. Holloway is also looking to streamline services so that students would not be pulled in different directions when looking for support.

"My observation was the resource centers provide some of the same support services to these identical communities (GLBT, women, and students of color)," he told CHP. "[The current structure] didn't seem to suggest an organizational structure that was more coordinated and integrated to really plan overall support for all these communities instead of having sometimes disjointed support." He feels that by combining the functions of SOAR and the resource centers into one community based support group under a new office, the Office of Student Life, service will be provided more efficiently. Holloway’s plan calls for the redirection of student organizations into their respective resource centers and political, religious, and social organizations into a separate cluster.

SUA Chair Latrice Jones is worried that student organizations will suffer from the reorganization because the resource center's tight budgets and small staff cannot support the amount of student programming that occurs every quarter. She said, "Resource centers can hardly fund any programs as it is. Preliminary steps must be made to ensure that this plan will be functionable."

A founding member of Mixed Ethnicity Student Headquarters (MESH), Jaime Tibbetts is uncomfortable that his multicultural group will be pushed towards affiliating with a specific ethnic resource center. He said, "We just wouldn't know where to go. The resource centers wouldn't be effective without SOAR, especially if they would have to take on the extra student load."

WHERE'S THE STUDENT INPUT?

Tibbetts said, "With SOAR being such an important resource for students, taking it away without considering student opinions doesn't seem right at all."

Jones also agrees that student input is lacking in the reorganization planning process. Jones said, "From what I know students have not been involved at all. We should be at the table because those are our services. Who is [Holloway] to say, 'I'm going to make this happen, but I won't consult [students]?' "

The UC Campus Rule Book states in Section 71.00 that: "Student opinion and viewpoint should be sought on matters affecting both the academic and nonacademic experiences of students, and especially those decisions which directly affect their welfare, through drawing upon official student representation, as well as additional means for seeking student input as appropriate."

Students who attended the May 7th SUA meeting noticed that Holloway was tight lipped about his plans and hesitant to discuss them in front of the whole assembly. When Oakes student Nick Javier asked Holloway to present on the SOAR reorganization, Holloway refused.

ALUMNI SPEAK UP

A group known as the Save SOAR Alumni, consisting of past leaders of the SUA, the Greek system and ethnic and cultural organizations, have banded together to address what they see as the university's attempt to disrupt the activities of the various communities on campus. Two weeks ago, they sent an email out to all student organization list-serves encouraging them to support the preservation of SOAR.

In a statement emailed to CHP, Save SOAR Alumni expressed their motives saying, "Decentralizing ALL organizations in this way prevents the development of important networks and bridges between student government, philanthropic organizations, the GLBTN, and the Ethnic and Cultural Organizations. Isolation is not a good model for education in the new millennium."

Save SOAR stated they would withhold any donations to the Alumni Association and the University Gift Fund and cancel their UCSC MBNA credit cards in protest. "We felt that it was important to us to stand in solidarity with students and protest attempts to dismantle an office that is central to life on campus," said alumni.

STUDENTS HAVE THE POWER

According to Holloway there is no definite date when the plan will be fully implemented for the plan is still under revision. "We will discuss [the plan] first and then broaden the audience at a later point," he said. The original timeline was set to get feedback from the students in May, but it needed to be readjusted due to this quarter's busy scheduling.

Jones and Grandison see the fate of SOAR in the hands of students. "Students are the only ones who can speak out against these changes. Staff are stuck between a rock and a hard place but students don't have jobs to lose," said Jones. Asian American Pacific Islander Resource Director Nancy Kim believes that Holloway is open to any recommendations. And while she feels the recent emails may have been misinformed, she said, "they show the positive aspect SOAR has had on the larger community."

To voice your concerns, please email Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Francisco Hernandez at 459-2474 or send a letter to fjh [at] cats.ucsc.edu.
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