By Valerie Luu
Student Organization Advising and Resource (SOAR) Center, located in the Student Services building, is the campus activities office that works with clubs, student government and various other campus organizations. According to its website, the mission of SOAR is to provide “mentorship, leadership training, organizational development advising and event management services to all students.”
However, not all organizations opt to take advantage of SOAR’s assistance.
Erik Pasternak, president of the recently-founded School of Engineering (SOE) Honor Society, said his organization chose not to work with SOAR in order to avoid what he called a level of bureaucracy. He said collaborating with SOAR involved more paperwork and indirect channels, which made it more difficult to organize events and access funds.
“I’m not sure if the extra work [required for] affiliation with SOAR would be beneficial,” Pasternak said.
To create an event, SOAR organizations are required to submit proposals describing what the event will entail and outlining the funds it will require. The process should begin six weeks prior to the actual event and requires approval from an adviser.
Pasternak said that SOAR should be more user-friendly: “It would make more sense if it was more of a review process, where it would review events and [a club’s] use of funds throughout the year and provide feedback, instead of requiring approval.”
But it’s not only students who are dissatisfied with operations at the resource center. SOAR Director Sayo Fujioka also recognized some of the center’s shortcomings.
“Sometimes students have to wait as long as two weeks to see their adviser. It’s really frustrating for them and for us,” Fujioka said.
According to Fujioka, the problem lies in a lack of permanent funding. Currently, SOAR only has enough money to pay for three full-time staffers, who Fujioka said are overwhelmed with trying to support over 150 student organizations. SOAR is now using savings to pay for its advisers, but this money will run out at the end of the year.
“One of our biggest goals is to keep our staff full-time and to have more staff so that we can be more available to students,” Fujioka said.
But this isn’t always possible.
“Sometimes we wonder, ‘Well, do [staffers] have to get a summer job or go back down to part-time because we don’t have the permanent money?’”
To start a SOAR-affiliated organization, students are required to complete an online orientation, draft a written constitution and apply with a minimum of four members. Once the club is approved, SOAR organizations can get funding, reserve facilities and equipment, and utilize numerous services that SOAR provides.
Stephanie Crockett, president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), said her organization has worked with SOAR ever since the UCSC chapter of NSCS was formed in the late 1990s, and it has helped her out tremendously. Because NSCS accepts freshmen and sophomores with a GPA of 3.4 or higher, SOAR assists NSCS by contacting the registrar so that NSCS is able send invitations to eligible students each year.
“I wouldn’t know how to do that on my own,” Crockett said. “They do a lot of mediating work for us.”
But this assistance is getting harder to come by. Fujioka is even more worried for SOAR’s financial future given the governor’s proposed state-wide cuts to public education.
“If we don’t get enough money, there will probably be a cut in staff, which means less availability to student orgs and less ability for students to get workshops or produce events,” Fujioka said.
Ultimately, she fears the consequences will result in fewer student organizations and fewer student-run events.
“If we have less staff, it’s bad for the staff’s morale because we want to assist students, put on events, and help organizations function — it’s frustrating when we can’t,” Fujioka said. “We’re already stressed to the max.”