Posted August 2013
Over the last few weeks I’ve had a couple of impressed members of other residence councils reach out to me to look at how our community here is managed.
When I first came in as vice-president the entire decision making process was inefficient and burdensome. Our council was not much different than many others: over a dozen members meeting twice monthly to plan a semi-annual party. An event that now takes us a minute to choose a date, and a night to plan and execute. What we did to get to this point was very simple. We eliminated unnecessary meetings. This effectively reduced the size of the council, but more importantly shifted us from talking about working on some ideas, to actually getting work done. We strived to create an environment that encouraged residents to approach us with their own projects that could quickly be approved. The idea was that even if a project was a failure, it encouraged residents to cooperate and participate within their community. I can’t say I have seen a failed project, and best of all the weekly and bi-weekly events are proof enough that the community has become very active. This change has made the residence council part of the community rather than a separate entity.
Residence councils get a lot of money to play with and a limited time to spend it. Slow and inefficient decision making lead to waste. My initial thought was, and still is, that we are given a budget to improve student life, if there is a cent left of it by the end of the semester we have done something wrong. Of course, remember that every cent you spend must be justified to how it helps the community. The inability to make quick decisions leads to money unused by the end of the period which is simply replaced by the next period’s budget essentially making the unused money a loss.
Personally, I may be reducing my level of activeness in the council over the next year as I focus on completing my Master’s degree. However, it’s encouraging to see how active students have become. I have no doubt that Ida Unity will continue to have a strong student community for years to come. My own advice to other councils is to simply make it as quick and easy as possible for residents to lead and execute their own ideas.