Former Bangladeshi Student Association members upset after derecognition

Student Association says club didn’t follow constitution, didn’t properly tell members about club events

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For the past decade, the Bangladeshi Student Association has prepared for cricket tournaments, International Fiesta and Biryani nights.

Now, the club is no more. 

On Oct. 11, the SA Senate derecognized the club and sent its $1,700 budget to the club’s presiding council — International Council.

SA Vice President Anyssa Evelyn and International Council Coordinator Elise Helou said the club was derecognized because it did not have an e-board this semester. But club members said SA acted unfairly, and misinterpreted their club’s constitution.

Evelyn wrote that SA proceeded with the club’s derecognition as it would have for any other club and it was BSA’s responsibility to meet club requirements.

The club did not have an e-board after SA delayed its election in May. SA delayed the election because a number of members claimed they “were not notified of the events held by the organization and could not vote or run” in its scheduled spring election, according to Helou.

But some former BSA members disagree, and said the club properly notified members.

Sifat Zico*, BSA’s 2017-18 president, said former members are upset about the decision.

“SA pushed us off until this semester and now, we are facing all this,” said Zico, a senior economics and management information systems major. “I don’t think that’s how it works.”

No one explicitly told BSA members that their club would be derecognized at the SA Senate meeting on Oct. 11, according to Zico. Zico and other former BSA members submitted a temporary club application with SA on Oct. 22. 

The club’s problems began last May, the day before its e-board election, when it was notified by SA officials that the club was under investigation. The club failed to give ample notice of club events to members, a move that postponed the club election until the fall semester, according to SA. 

BSA’s constitution states members need to attend four events and four meetings to vote or run in elections. BSA Facebook posts show the club planned the necessary events and gave 24-hour notice of its events. The club posted one meeting on Facebook and hosted 12 other International Fiesta dance practices, which counted toward club requirements.

But the election never happened.

Jacob Brown, then-SA’s Elections and Credentials chair, said two club members approached him and said the election date wasn’t fair. 

BSA’s constitution states elections must be before the last day of spring classes. The election, scheduled for May 15, was scheduled after the last day of spring classes, May 11.

Zico and other club members met with Brown and Evelyn in May. Brown and Evelyn said Helou would contact the club over the summer to come up with a plan for the fall, according to a recording of the meeting. Helou never contacted BSA over the summer, according to Zico.

Between the end of the spring semester and the fall semester, emails went back and forth between SA and club members. Helou hatched a plan for BSA to hold four events — three events and an election, which would also count as an event. The club would then have an e-board and could remain a recognized club, but miscommunication and misunderstanding about the substance of BSA’s constitution resulted in the club running out of time and SA stepping in to derecognize the club anyway.

On Sept. 11, Evelyn emailed Zico and other club members. She wrote that “it would in fact, take the entire semester” to plan the club requirements.

“For this reason, BSA will not be constitutionally able to hold an election,” Evelyn wrote in the email. “Therefore, the club will be brought to the Senate to be considered for derecognition.”

Former BSA members said they weren’t informed of when their club would be up for derecognition by the SA Senate.

The Spectrum emailed Evelyn and Helou, and asked them why SA did not explicitly tell members when BSA would be up for derecognition on Oct. 11. 

Evelyn said the club never followed up with SA about its decision.

“It was a courtesy to even let the individuals know about this decision since there was no elected e-board,” Evelyn wrote. 

Daniel Connolly, a junior computer science major and SA senator, said during the Oct. 11 meeting that he was waiting for members to come into the meeting, but they were not in attendance. 

He said most of the meeting played out as usual, but BSA’s derecognition was different. 

Connolly said he tried to speak on BSA’s behalf, but the meeting’s chairperson, SA President Gunnar Haberl told him he wasn’t privileged to speak on the club’s behalf. 

“It was the only time in the meeting where I really, truly needed to say something where I felt it was really important and it was the only time where anyone was cut off,” Connolly said.

Connolly said he isn’t criticizing Haberl, but would have liked to speak on the topic. 

Haberl told The Spectrum that after he opened the topic for debate at the meeting, Helou and Brown commented on BSA’s situation. Haberl said he recognized Connolly. Connolly began speaking and then another senator started arguing with him. 

“They were raising their voices and they were out of order,” Haberl said.

Haberl then called on a non-voting Senate member, who motioned to end debate on the subject. The Senate ended debate and then voted to derecognize BSA. Haberl said as Senate chair, he was following procedures.

Connolly told Zico and other members about the club’s derecognition but no one else from SA informed the club, according to Zico.

In spite of the SA Senate’s decision, Helou wrote that she hoped for BSA to remain a club. “I was at e-board and pro-staff desks daily for a week trying to see what the best way to go about planning/hosting the events was,” Helou wrote. “Having been secretary, vice president and president of a club, I understood how they felt. At the end of the day, there are rules that clubs must follow, ones written by them in their constitutions and ones written by SA.”

But former club members, such as Zico, said they are willing to have a temporary club this year, even if funding comes from club members. 

“We are going to build up our club. Even if we don’t get a ton of money from SA, we’ll be the ones who are going to donate to it and say to our club, ‘Listen, this is a temporary club, but it works like a permanent club. Whatever SA did, it is not fair at all.’”

*Sifat Zico is an advertising staff member at The Spectrum, but he spoke to a Spectrum editor as a representative of the former Bangladeshi Student Association.

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior features editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and @BenjaminUBSpec on Twitter.