In the fight to reserve space on campus, some of UB’s clubs have resorted to breaking into empty rooms in the Student Union to hold their meetings.
Some have even been escorted out by UPD, according to an email sent to club executive board members by Student Unions Reservations Coordinator Elizabeth Hladczuk.
On Oct. 18, UPD was called to the SU following complaints that a student employee was being harassed by two unidentified UB clubs. According to Deputy Chief of Police Josh Sticht, officers were called to respond to the student employee, but upon arrival, they deemed it necessary to remove both clubs from the premises. One student was referred to Student Conduct following the incident.
“While the original disagreement that led to the harassment complaint did involve a dispute over who had reserved a space, that is not what we were responding to,” Sticht said in an email to The Spectrum.
Planning an on-campus event can take upwards of a month. Clubs must secure food permits and pre-approve club expenditures from the Student Association, which requires a 14-day turnaround. Then they must request a space on UBLinked at least two weeks in advance.
But as clubs have continued to struggle with the difficult reservation process, SA chief of staff Will Eaton says this process was designed to be complex in order to streamline the approval process.
“The system is necessarily complex, as it has to accommodate different recognizing organization approval (like SA), university approval and the SU’s approval all before a reservation can be made,” Eaton said in an email to The Spectrum.
Some club members say they are unable to meet in person on a regular basis because of the long reservation waits.
Andrea Lin, a senior communications major and vice president of the Malaysian SA and Singapore SA, says in past years, Malaysian SA and Singapore SA would hold general interest meetings every two weeks, where the clubs would meet in-person with their members and bond over homemade dishes.
But this semester, Singapore SA has only been able to hold one general interest meeting over Zoom, while Malaysian SA has held three events: a general interest meeting, a Mid-Autumn Celebration and an apple picking field trip.
Lim says the lack of events has caused more than a dip in attendance.
“I would say a lot of my e-board members (because they’re new as well) are very unmotivated to do more events because of the complicated process to plan one,” Lin said in an Instagram message to The Spectrum.
The event-planning process was becoming increasingly difficult, e-board members say, even before the pandemic. Since 2019, SU has recorded a 1% increase in event room request denials, according to data from UBLinked provided by Hladczuk.
Many clubs hold food-related events, from bake sales to restaurant fundraisers. However, according to Lin, whose clubs traditionally host home-cooked dinners for their members, remaining COVID-19 restrictions have prevented her clubs from holding these bonding activities.
Currently, clubs are only allowed to serve pre-packaged food at on-campus events.
While remaining COVID-19 restrictions still linger, SA is working with “the university, Student Unions and others” to streamline the event reservation process, Eaton said.
But Eaton says SA is not attempting to hinder clubs from hosting events.
“It is in both of our best interests, the clubs and SA administration, that clubs are able to reserve space through the proper channels. Accordingly, so long as the clubs and SA administration are both in compliance with University and Student Union policies, and local, state, and federal laws, we are making every effort to help clubs get reservations,” he said.
But regardless of how the new reservation process has made scheduling easier for the SA, it continues to prevent clubs from meeting in-person and creating meaningful connections, Lin says.
“[Not being able to meet in person] I feel is really such a shame because most of our members are international students (especially new students) and club events are such a great place for them to meet more friends or even to just hang out and have fun,” Lin said.
Natalie Doller is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at email@example.com