New Campus Life policy complicates room bookings
As of this semester, a new policy from the Office of Campus Life now requires all student group events to be registered and approved at least two weeks before the event is scheduled, causing logistical concerns for student groups on campus.
Previously, student groups only had to register events that fell under a specific set of criteria, but now all events must be approved, which has led to confusion among student group leaders who feel the policy is unclear.
Under the previous policy, events that required a 15 business day advance registration were those that involved community service, alcohol, policy applications, and events with minors. Any event that includes travel required groups to register 20 business days in advance.
All events, including general body meetings, now have to be registered 14 days in advance on Washington University Group Organizer (WUGO), an online platform that WashU’s Office of Campus Life uses to coordinate with student groups.
Scott Williams, the Campus Life Event Coordinator, outlined the reasoning behind the changes made to the event registration policy and said that the office receives a significant amount of requests from groups.
“We know that students do want more time, [but] from the event side, there are over 3,000 event requests from August 13th to September 30th,” Williams said. “The sheer number means that we have to ensure we have a timeframe where we can get everything processed and make everything successful.”
Williams said that in the past, having different timelines for different types of events created confusion.
“We’re really looking to streamline things and clear up any ambiguity of the policies,” Williams said.
He also highlighted issues that Campus Life has faced in the past with student groups having different definitions of a general body meeting, which historically complicated the event registration process.
“We have a lot of groups who were registering their events as general body meetings, but really when it comes down to it, you’re reading through the description and it’s more fundraising [or] recruitment,” Williams said.
To solve this problem, instead of trying to focus on enforcing the definition of a general body meeting, Williams emphasized that it made more sense to standardize event registration and create one process.
However, for many student group leaders, a lack of proper guidelines on how to use the new system has caused confusion about room bookings.
Senior Lindsey Gorman, President of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO), said that she felt frustrated by the new policy.
“There’s not a lot of clarity with the process,” Gorman said. “We had a period of time where random people in our group could reserve rooms, but not the people who needed to.”
Groups have particularly found the travel regulations of the policy complicated, given that trips where groups travel over 50 miles require more information to register than in previous years.
Senior Carsen Codel, President of WashU’s Run Club, said that filling out the form, which asks for information such as hotel reservations and transportation arrangements, is difficult.
“Regardless of when the event is in the semester, a club doing an overnight trip is going to be confused as to how to approach properly filling out a WUGO form,” Codel said.
Some other groups have struggled with the timing constraints of the new policy.
Robert Burch, President of the Washington University College Democrats, said that he is concerned about adhering to the 14 day deadline of the new policy because of the unpredictable nature of the group’s work.
“I kind of anticipate it affecting things because there is a lot of political stuff we do that you cannot plan two weeks in advance,” Burch said.
While the policy itself and the communication surrounding it has led to confusion for some, other groups see the policy itself as a step in the right direction for Campus Life.
“I think it’s a good attempt by Campus Life to do something new and help student groups be a little more responsible with the events that they are planning,” Roy Claverie, President of the A Cappella Advisory Council, said.
Student groups who report being proactive and building strong relationships with Campus Life have said that they felt supported by staff in the office as they plan events.
Abby McGowan, who serves as the Outreach Chair for the Washington University College Republicans, said that their group plans many events far out in advance.
“With a group that is more event-oriented, a lot of what you are doing is planned at the start of the semester or before the semester,” McGowan said. “We already have a lot of insight into what we need to plan, but when we have had to make changes that are more unexpected, Campus Life has been very willing to help with the process.”
Although some groups have been able to resolve issues with the help of Campus Life, others found that they had to find solutions by themselves.
Gorman recounted an experience where APO and another student organization were booked in the same room at the same time.
“The first day room reservations opened, they actually double-booked us and another group because they had moved both of our reservations,” Gorman said. “Then, we had to sort out who got the room. It was out of business hours and we both got an email from the same woman saying we should be [in the space].”
Gorman said that in a separate incident, Student Union canceled all of APO’s room reservations without providing reasoning beyond “uncontrollable circumstances” and without offering any replacement spaces.
Burch said that he believes the policy should focus on having a cohesive online platform.
“I think having one place to go to for reservations, appeals, getting approval, rooms, and all of that could be a good starting point,” he said.
While Gorman agrees that this policy change is moving in the right direction, she emphasized that it is still a work in progress.
“I think we’re lucky because I know [Campus Life] well and we’re able to navigate it easier,” Gorman said. “If we didn’t have that connection we’d be out of luck, it’s much harder.”
Claverie also said that Campus Life should improve its space-reservation policy to make it more navigable for all student groups in the future.
“In my opinion, something that’s worth understanding is that not every single event has the same type of planning as a big general body meeting,” Claverie said. “I think part of the learning process here is going to be understanding how student groups are planning events and if they want everything to be planned two weeks ahead of time.”