Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) unanimously voted to approve a set of reforms that would increase the amount of supervision the Student Organizations Oversight (SOOC) retains over chartered student clubs and organizations at its Wednesday meeting.
Some of the changes to the SOOC’s rules and regulations—such as the inclusion of Bowdoin’s non-discrimination policy—simply serve to highlight and re-emphasize that all student groups should abide by existing college policies. A new clause to the SOOC rules states that “no group, if part of a greater local, regional, national, or international organization, will allow said group’s guidelines to supersede college and BSG policy.”
BSG Vice President for Student Organizations and sponsor of the reforms, Danny Mejia-Cruz ’16, acknowledged that the addition of these two clauses was partly inspired by the recent developments with the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, whose advisors have resigned from their posts claiming that the non-discrimination clause in the College’s new volunteer agreement would violate their faith.
Other reforms seek to modify the way that the SOOC interacts with clubs.
Under the new guidelines, club constitutions will be re-written as contracts between the chartered club and the SOOC, setting out the guidelines and standards for club leadership, membership and chartering.
The new rules seek to standardize the election of new club leaders in the second semester. Clubs on an operating budget must have leaders elected and re-chartering forms turned in by April 1 of each year, and all other clubs by April 15. Additionally, if a club runs on an operating budget, both the previous leaders and future leaders are required to attend Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) meetings at the end of the year.
The changes will also monitor participation, requiring clubs to document student attendance at their first three meetings. The guidelines also make meetings mandatory during September, October, November, February, March and April in order for a club to be seriously considered for re-chartering.
Finally, the SOOC now has the ability to remove individuals from leadership positions and call for elections if violations of SOOC or BSG rules occur, whereas previously the only way to punish violations was to revoke a group’s charter. With these reforms, Mejia-Cruz argued, the SOOC is able to replace leaders that are not fulfilling their duties without having to take the more drastic measures of de-chartering a club.
Kaylee Wolfe ’15, a former leader of Active Minds and a current leader of The Sex Project (a recently chartered club) said that she agreed with the reforms in theory, yet had reservations about their implementation. She thought that the early elections might be a hindrance to recently chartered clubs that may not have had time to get a handle on membership and content. She also was worried about the mandatory meeting clause, saying that “not every club’s purpose and mission lends itself to the same structure...if I’m going to call a meeting, there needs to be a point.”
Jean-Paul Honegger ’15, co-president of the Bowdoin French Club, was more negative, worrying about the “red tape” that might be added to the re-chartering process.
“The claim that clubs are rudderless in the final months of the spring semester fails to recognize that most organizations have been very successful at passing on the baton, year to year,” Honegger said.
At BSG’s meeting on Wednesday, President Sarah Nelson ’14 sought to counter the perception that BSG’s reforms were meant to be restrictive, specifically commenting on the meeting requirements.
“It’s not meant to babysit groups,” Nelson said, noting that the policy’s language was deliberately vague to account for the different missions and purposes of clubs. The goal, Nelson added, is to keep track of “clubs that are falling short of the expectancy that we have when they should be meeting to be considered a fundable club.”
BSG At-Large representative Ryan Davis ’15 argued that the new rules were not made “to be draconian,” or to “get power over clubs willy-nilly.”
“These are rules based on what we’ve seen in the past in order to help us better govern in the future,” he said.