Representatives of four student groups aired concerns about a policy change that bans some clubs from affiliating with third-party organizations at a Student Association (SA) Senate meeting Monday.
The new policy, passed at the previous SA Senate meeting on March 27, would require SA clubs in the hobby, POC, special interest and international councils to dissolve all ties with outside organizations before the end of the semester or be derecognized.
At the March 27 meeting, SA President Becky Paul-Odionhin said the ban on affiliations would protect SA, telling senators, “We all know why we’re doing this.”
The change was made two weeks after right-wing commentator Michael Knowles gave a speech via UB’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The speech, in which Knowles spoke against feminism and “transgenderism,” sparked large protests among UB students. YAF is affiliated with the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth third-party organization.
Immediately after opening the meeting, senators adjourned for a 15-minute recess to privately discuss issues with the SA attorney.
Leaders from the UB chapters of Amnesty International, Circle K, Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC) and Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) spoke against the ban on affiliations, saying it would cause significant harm to their organizations.
Amnesty International President Zanaya Hussain said the club has helped her and other members become more culturally competent and engaged with world affairs. She spoke about one alum who established an organization to support refugees in Western New York, and another who received a Fulbright Scholarship and was admitted to UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“This will change the very essence of our club and the positive benefit we implement on our campus, the broader Western New York community, and across the United States,” Hussain said.
Circle K President-Elect Sara Dembsky and Vice President-Elect Sofie Melledy said the club’s affiliation with Kiwanis International, which provides leadership and community benefits, is “the sole reason our club even has a reputation today.” Without that affiliation, they don’t see a clear path forward without that affiliation. “We are risking our whole club falling apart,” Dembsky said.
Young Americans for Freedom Vice President Justin Hill said chapters of his organization had not encountered similar issues at other schools. He questioned whether the change is necessary, and said there is confusion about how clubs can come into compliance with the new rules. SA Vice President Sammi Pang responded that SA’s structure, as a nonprofit encompassing its clubs, is relatively unique. Pang said a Zoom town hall meeting would be held to clarify the change for club leaders. The meeting is scheduled to be on April 13, at 5 p.m.
Leaders from BASIC also spoke against the change, saying it would hinder their ability to attract new students. BASIC Vice President Amy Choi said the organization, which has operated at UB since 1986, is a recognizable name to students transferring from other SUNY schools with a BASIC chapter.
“[BASIC] has been around for 30, 40 years on campus, and our name is being cut off now,” Choi said. “A major reason many of us are able to fill seats in our clubs is because of that name recognition.”
The SA Senate was unable to take any action at the meeting since no legislation had been drafted, but Pang said SA would work to find a solution by the next Senate meeting.
Discussing the proceedings with each other in the hallway after the meeting, some club representatives expressed disappointment.
“I feel like they avoided our questions,” Hill said. Both Hill and Choi declined a request for an interview with The Spectrum after the meeting.
The news desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org