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          Recent Class Officer Collective retention issues nothing new on campus

          Emily Garvey

          Issue date: 3/19/10 Section: News
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          Although COC has been recently established on campus, class officers have been traditionally responsible for planning and coordinating campus traditions, including the annual springtime tradition, the Hudson Relays.
          Although COC has been recently established on campus, class officers have been traditionally responsible for planning and coordinating campus traditions, including the annual springtime tradition, the Hudson Relays.
          [Click to enlarge]
          The Powder Puff football game (above) is a recent tradition started by COC. Although Posner believes that the frequent turnover in class officers will ultimately help COC and the activities it sponsors, students are not so sure.
          Media Credit: Denton Zhou
          The Powder Puff football game (above) is a recent tradition started by COC. Although Posner believes that the frequent turnover in class officers will ultimately help COC and the activities it sponsors, students are not so sure. "I think that it's just that they're lazy," junior Garrett Singer said. "I mean, if you join something and then quit right away, that's kind of silly."
          [Click to enlarge]
          CWRU students are aware of their events - Snowball, Homecoming, and the Hudson Relays to name a few - but fewer students are aware of the 16-member organization that plans these campus traditions, or the group's recent membership retention difficulties. The group in question: the Class Officer Collective. So who is COC and why are they having trouble keeping members?

          "It's a dedicated group of individuals who come together in this group to truly unite the Case community, to maintain university traditions," said Miriam Posner, president of the Class of 2010.

          Despite many COC members' dedication, during the 2009-2010 academic year, the group has seen four officers resign for various reasons. The class of 2012's vice president had to be reelected in the fall and was again replaced in the spring. The class of 2012's secretary also had to be replaced this spring. The class of 2010's vice president was also replaced at the beginning of the spring semester. While many believe this would cause instability within the organization, Posner tried to see the turnover in a positive light.

          "While it's disappointing to have anyone resign, it can breathe new life and energy into the organization. So to have people resign is unfortunate, but I'd rather have someone who's committed and fresh to the organization than someone who's just going to fill a space," said Posner. "Even if you're new, people can learn how these organizations function, rather than someone who is dealing with other commitments or personal issues and really can't commit to it. So it serves the best interests of our class and of the university to get people into those positions of power that have the time commitment to be able to do it."

          When a member of COC resigns, an e-mail is sent out to their respective class to find a replacement. Those interested are then invited to speak before COC, and an internal vote is held to fill the open position. Posner explained that every resignation has been met by one or more interested students.

          Despite her positive attitude, Posner admitted that she does think that the turnover within the COC is higher than she would like. However, she acknowledged several reasons for this year's hike include a restructuring of the organization that has more strongly established its mission and goals.

          "I wouldn't call them retention issues, but people have resigned this year," said Posner. "I definitely think it's more of a commitment this year."

          The restructuring means that all officers are expected to attend at least two meetings every week, with Posner attending at least four. She said that the increase in meetings and accountability caused some former members to realize that they could not fully devote themselves to COC earlier in the year. Posner also understands that sometimes students just have too much going on and have to prioritize.

          "People have varying commitments - people join sororities or fraternities, people go on co-op," said Posner. "Same as any organization, there's a little bit of turnover, but people try to return very often."

          Besides campus-wide events, each class cohort of president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer works to put together opportunities for their class alone. This might mean a subsidized trip to Cedar Point, an organized bar night for seniors, or just some free food on campus. All of the class-specific clothing worn around campus also originated from COC.

          Still, many students admit that they have never heard of, or do not know anything about COC. Most cannot name any of their class representatives either, and some identify Undergraduate Student Government representatives instead.

          "The Class Officers is a really new organization," says Posner. "It's obviously new in people's minds, but it's actually much newer than people even really know."

          COC originated as a part of USG during the early 1990s and gradually evolved into a completely separate organization over time. However, it has only been independently funded as of the 2007-2008 school year. This might explain the low awareness of the group, despite their many successful events during the recent years.

          To fight this, COC is planning a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the group and their upcoming elections. Elections are held every spring for the sophomore, junior, and senior classes, while the new freshman representatives are elected in the fall. Posner hopes that the increase in marketing will help reduce turnover for next year by giving incoming officers a better idea of the organization's demands and expectations. Additionally, gaining campus-wide recognition will hopefully cause officers to see more appreciation from their peers for their hard work.

          And while it is easy to write COC's retention issues off as an isolated problem, their turnover situation is far from unusual. A survey of all other SEC member organizations shows that many of these groups on campus have a similar turnover rate. Of the seven member organizations, all but two (University Program Board and Panhellenic Council) have had resignations within their officers during the past school year.

          It must be noted that this characteristic is difficult to compare among organizations because each one has a very different structure. For example, UPB, an organization without any turnover, has five executive officer positions, while COC lacks an executive board and is comprised of only the 16 class officers. Because UPB has a larger committee membership, they have seen larger turnover within their committee members.

          It shouldn't come as a surprise that CWRU students are often overcommitted, overextended, and overworked - which sometimes leads them to step down in organizations. What may be surprising, however, are the different ways that students react to their classmates' actions.

          "I think it's just that they're lazy," said junior Garrett Singer. "I mean if you join something and then quit right away, that's kind of silly. Why would you do it in the first place if you knew you had time constraints, unless you just don't want to deal with it?"

          Students also note that they could understand that officers may have resigned because they felt frustrated by the lack of awareness of their efforts. Others speculate that some students may take officer positions in order to build their resume, only to step down later because they do not have the time or passion for the organization. Many were more understanding to the academic reasons that could cause their peers to resign from organizations, but the element of blame is still present.

          "I think a lot of people think they manage their time better than they can, and then they pull a D in a class and quit everything," said senior Chris Zagore.

          Duwain Pinder, president of USG, agrees that academics are the main excuse that representatives give if they have to resign from their position. During the 2009-2010 academic year, USG has had three out of 10 executive positions turn over.

          "It's kind of frustrating being the leader of an organization, but I also understand from a student's perspective that if you have to study, you have to study," said Pinder. "You're not going to get a job or you're not going to get into graduate school because you were in USG, but your GPA is terrible. You have to be able to balance and the balance for each student is different."

          Pinder also says that some of this turnover is due to unanticipated expectations from incoming representatives. Since USG elections are held in the spring, some newly elected students will find that come fall, their academic or personal situations may have changed and USG can no longer be a priority for them.

          "You expect some turnover," said Pinder. "You just don't know where it's going to come from."

          Posner hopes that Case students at large will understand the tough balancing act that COC members have to manage. "Your class officers work really hard to make this university a better place for you, so give them credit," said Posner.
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