The focus of the Office of Student Activities (OSA), now called Student Activities and Leadership (SAL), “has always been on supporting students and supporting student organizations,” according to Nanci Howe, the office’s director. The change in name from OSA to SAL, she explained, merely serves “to emphasize more strongly two things: the resources we provide for students, which includes the peer advising program and the Web, and that we’re also no longer doing Greek organizations.”
The fact that SAL will not be overseeing Greek life may seem to be the most significant aspect of the OSA’s transformation, but Howe pointed out that this is merely the result of budgetary changes and the reorganization of staff within several departments. Residential Education, or ResEd, which worked closely with the OSA in the past, will now be in charge of the Greek system. “In the wake of potential job cuts stemming from the economic downturn, both departments, indeed the entire university, took steps to maximize the reach of resources at hand,” said Nate Boswell, ResEd’s Associate Director.
Howe touted SAL’s new Web site as an example of this newly-optimized use of resources. The site centralizes all of Stanford’s rules and guidelines, making University policies more accessible and comprehensible to students. If students can become more familiar with what is expected of them, the thinking goes, they will comply more with these policies and thus lessen SAL’s workload. Whether this logic is valid is a different story.
Aside from changes made to the office itself, SAL worked in conjunction with Vaden Health Promotion, ResEd, the Department of Public Safety, Resident Deans, and undergraduate students to amend the University’s party policies. The biggest change is the elimination of the vague “party level number system.” Parties will now be registered under distinct categories such as “all campus” or “invite only” rather than the easily-confused “level 1” or “level 2.”
“The changes have greatly improved the transparency of the registration and party execution process,” said Zachary Johnson, social chair of the Sigma Nu fraternity. “Registering parties is much easier, and being able to work directly with the housing office and Greek advisers is a major improvement.”
However, the new system will by no means eradicate the OSA headaches of the past. The 2009 Party Planning Guide adds two new “planning requirements” that were not present in the document’s 2008 version. The guide states, “Parties that are deemed uniquely high impact may be subject to additional conditions.” Additionally, “Security needs must be determined by the nature of the event in consultation with the Department of Public Safety.” Some students fear that the arbitrary nature of these requirements could lead to inconsistent enforcement of party planning policies.
“I can’t comment when people say ‘inconsistent.’ I don’t know what that means,” said Howe. “It’s always been consistent and organized.”
One thing that will remain consistent is SAL’s immense influence on student life.
“I would clarify that at this time Residential Education is only in charge of approving Greek events and parties and does so in accordance with policies and guidelines identified cooperatively with SAL,” stated Boswell. In other words, SAL will still have a hand in approving Greek events and parties, though its role is now more indirect.
So apart from the name, what has really changed about the OSA? Greek parties will now be managed by ResEd, in accordance with policies outlined by SAL. And these policies are now easily accessible to students online. It is still too early in the school year to know exactly the impact of these changes, but Johnson remains optimistic that Stanford’s social scene will continue to blossom. Howe, too, believes that the changes will be a net positive.
What’s in a name? The model has changed, some departments have been reorganized, but the policies and the oversight of the OSA—or, rather, SAL—remains intact.