Students progress in conversation during Student Life’s second forum
Students and Student Life members discuss controversial legislation
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 18:11
On Monday night, the Office of Student Life held its second open forum in the Student Union Theater to discuss the policy change that caused much controversy among student clubs and organizations.
Students fear the proposed policy – which states every club must have a university adviser, cannot be dual-recognized and must be annually re-recognized by Student Life – would change the way clubs operate and exist independently.
Student Life has met with a number of organizations and clubs to help understand students’ problems with the proposed policy since students expressed their concerns at the original forum, which was held on Oct. 21. During the first forum, students expressed how angry and offended they were with many areas of the policy – like the strict member eligibility rule – which Student Life focused on Monday night.
SA President Travis Nemmer noticed a big difference in students’ attitudes from the first forum. He believes the conversation has changed for the better.
“This meeting was conversational, the last meeting was confrontational,” Nemmer said. “The first meeting was about correcting wrongs, and this meeting was about addressing the corrections and progress is being made. Right now, we are the opposite of complacent, but the dialogue is going and it’s healthy and it’s robust, and we will come out of this with a policy that does not infringe on the autonomy or the efficaciousness of SA clubs.”
The goal of Monday’s forum was to use the students’ feedback to influence change in the policy, and some changes have already been made. The policy won’t be finalized until all revisions have been discussed.
“My approach was the same, but I think what changed was that students saw how we are willing to work with them,” said Tom Tiberi, the director of Student Life. “The first meeting was about giving us feedback on how the policy will affect you. We got feedback and we made changes.”
The biggest objection throughout the night was regarding member eligibility. Currently, clubs and organizations are allowed to have up to 10 percent of active members as non-UB undergraduates, according to the new policy. Tiberi is adamant this stipulation will not change, although the percentage is up for revision.
Jonathan Grunin, a senior political science major and SA Senate chair, agrees with Student Life’s member eligibility policy. He said although they don’t have a 10 percent mandate, the rule is in conjunction with SA policy.
“I feel that clubs that are already in trouble with these policies are going to be in trouble with SA regular policies, anyway,” Grunin said. “If your club can’t get student interest, you are going to be derecognized by us anyway, so the least of your worries is Student Life policies.”
He even said students who have a problem with the “10 percent rule” are probably going to be looked at by SA because they just brought up allegations against themselves.
One student mentioned members who graduated from his fraternity can still be active, as stated by its national bylaws. He estimated only 30 percent of active members are current undergraduates, which violates the 10 percent rule. In response, Tiberi said he will speak to more fraternities and sororities to resolve the issue.
Kerry Spicer, associate director of Student Unions and Activities, and Michael Lewis, a student activities associate in Student Life, joined Tiberi on Monday night. Tiberi felt Lewis and Spicer could best explain the policy and its efforts to revise it.
“This was brought to us by students who were concerned about alumni taking control over their organizations and taking the power away from the students,” Spicer said. “We are trying to respond to student needs and student feedback.”
The policy’s dual-recognition caused a lot of controversy in the first forum because some clubs are dual-recognized. The engineering club is recognized by the engineering department and SA and couldn’t be dual-recognized under the new policy.
Tiberi and Lewis clarified the issue on Monday night. Tiberi said a club would have to choose one entity to be the “primary recognizing agent” and would mainly adhere its rules. Although a lot of questions still exist, he said he plans to talk to corresponding academic departments and clubs.
Tiberi and Lewis also said Student Life would not be able to derecognize a club. The only group that could derecognize a club is its primary recognizing agent.
Many students had a problem with the original stipulation where clubs had to have faculty advisers. The rule was removed from the policy after students expressed their concerns at the first forum. Although it’s no longer a requirement, Tiberi strongly suggested on Monday night that clubs have faculty advisers.
Christian Andzel, the president of UB Students for Life and the vice president of UB Conservatives, was a strong opponent of the proposed policy at the first meeting. He even told Tiberi that night to, “let us have our freedom back to run our clubs how we see fit.”
He is starting to feel differently.
“[My opinion] has changed a little bit,” Andzel said. “I think I understand what they are saying now, and I somewhat agree and I just want to clarify with them. I think we are moving in the right direction now.”
Lewis said he got a lot of student feedback on Monday night, mainly regarding academic clubs, sororities and fraternities, which he will “take into account.”
“We recognize that there are a lot of different issues that affect clubs in many, many different ways,” Lewis said. “So we are trying to reach out to specific organizations to accommodate them and those particular concerns. As we spend time with groups on an individual level, we can find out what their concerns really are.”
Although no official date has been set, the final revision of the policy will be written early next semester. The policy was originally planned to take effect in Jan. 2013, but is now set for May 2013.