Student organizations seeking to renew their charters for next year will face a new registration process. Implemented by the Student Organizations Oversight Committee (SOOC), the new procedure includes a mandatory online survey that aims to improve club records and streamline the operation.
Dani Chediak '13, chair of the SOOC, said that a few club leaders have contacted her with concerns about the new survey. Some leaders were disturbed by the nature of the questions and felt that they were being forced to defend their organization's existence, Chediak added.
In the past, the charter review process required each club to fill out a survey, meet with members of the SOOC, and sign a charter form for the following academic year. This year, the SOOC abolished the meetings after they proved ineffective and logistically challenging, and instead, extended its online survey. Organizations that are rechartered will still be required to sign a new charter form for next year.
Chediak said that the SOOC will compile the survey responses in a central database, and that she believes it will provide "really detailed records" for clubs to reference past activities for programming ideas. She also said she thinks it will help the SOOC keep track of clubs' sources of funding, organize training sessions, and address problems or issues that organizations typically encounter.
"This form was a lot more intensive," said Tessa Kramer '13, who has filled out the rechartering form for the Improvabilities for the past two years.
The new survey asks organizations to state their mission, list their members and leaders, summarize their budget, and describe their programming activities in the past year.
Unlike previous years, however, each club must now identify the "traditions and activities" most relevant to their group as well as list sources of funding for the 2011-2012 academic year. They are also asked to provide a club description and an explanation of how the group has "benefited the campus as a whole." The survey also asks leaders to disclose the passwords to their club mailing lists and email addresses.
After completing the rechartering survey for the Bowdoin College Democrats, Ben Richmond '13 contacted Chediak with his concerns about the new process.
"The new SOOC rechartering survey contained many questions which to me appeared somewhat accusatory and abrasive, asking leaders to defend their club's charter," wrote Richmond in an email to the Orient. "It also contained misleading language that all clubs must 'benefit Bowdoin College as a whole' and hand over sensitive information like the passwords to club mailing lists."
Chediak said that she did not intend for clubs to feel that they needed to defend their existence.
"There aren't many clubs who won't be benefiting the campus community," she said, explaining that, the ultimate Frisbee team "benefits Bowdoin College as a whole" simply by representing the College in a game.
Chediak emphasized that the disclosure of club list and email address passwords is optional and that the organizations do not have to provide this information in order to complete the survey. The survey does not explicitly state that this password information is voluntary.
Dylan Kane '12, a captain of the men's ultimate Frisbee team, said that he was not concerned with sharing the team's mailing list password with the SOOC.
"It's the first time we've given out the password to our mailing list, but the school has access to our mailing list anyway, and that's good to have for future years, in case [future leaders] ever lose track of it," said Kane.
Kramer, who did not provide the Improvabilities' passwords to the oversight committee, said that although she "wasn't too perturbed by the questions," she could see how other groups may have been offended.
"I think some groups are maybe more sensitive in nature, so I think maybe the political groups or the cultural groups feel like it's more invasive," she said.
Chediak said that from what she has observed, many of the students who have raised concerns are members of "the more prominent clubs on campus" and that "for them, I think it's just a little bit frustrating that they have to go through the whole process because they feel like we already know that information via SAFC records and just conversations."
Richmond ultimately praised the SOOC's efforts to improve the charter review process and said that upon raising his concerns with Chediak, she was "extremely responsive" and "assured me that...she would work on some 'rephrasing and restructuring' for next year's survey."
Chediak said that she hopes the new survey will allow for a smoother transition between old and new club leaders and foster a more open dialogue between the SOOC and student organizations.
Kramer suggested that in the future, the SOOC establish a procedure for following up on the results of the rechartering survey.
"I feel like that would be a good idea because sometimes things you write can be misinterpreted," she said. "But I think this simplifies the process on both ends, in a good way, overall."