The deadline for student groups with offices located in the Michigan Union, the League, Pierpont Commons and the William Monroe Trotter House to apply to retain their offices for the next two years is rapidly approaching. Due to revisions by the University administration two years ago after the Michigamua protest, these student groups must follow the same process as those established by the Office Space Allocation Committee in the Union. An application must be filled out by the student group, which is then reviewed by the building board.
While this process has been supported for weeding out student groups that are not properly using their office space, it also has the potential to oust those groups that deserve and are dependant on this space. The policy has drawn some ire from student groups over allegations of institutional bias and preferences for specific student organizations. Within the policy, groups that have either been granted departmental status by the University Board of Regents or received funds from academic departments and those that are an elected governing body or a campus news media outlet are exempt from these policies. However, even within these exemptions discrepancies regarding which groups qualify are quite visible. While publications like the Daily and the Michigan Every Three Weekly are exempt from this specific process, the Michigan Review, another campus publication, might lose its office in the Michigan League if the building committee deems the paper not to be a vital part of the campus community. This preferential treatment for a particular group over another that fulfills a similar purpose is unfair and should be revised.
Students are drawn to the University because of the hundreds of student groups on campus that offer a unique and eclectic environment. Each organization specializes in its field and cannot be judged simply by the number of members that would be used by a standardized review. Instead, each building committee should carefully review student groups’ applications and determine the need for office space on an individual basis. This extensive analysis of the application would allow for an impartial distribution of rooms. Since the University has an abundant number of buildings, this process would make it much easier for all interested student groups to obtain space for their institutional responsibilities and activities on campus.
While this process is susceptible to personal bias and potential malfeasance, the process has improved over the years. University buildings have committees that decide the fate of these student groups’ office space allocation and have some student representation. Students are unaware of these positions, however, since they are rarely publicized. The building committee should analyze each application carefully and with as much student input as possible so that each student group is provided a fair chance at acquiring office space.