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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Club renewal process creates concern over decharting

Published: March 16, 2007
Section: News

Concern regarding the dechartering of clubs emerged over the past week due to confusion surrounding the club renewal process. Clubs that were on the agenda to be dechartered or derecognized due to a lack of club renewal forms include the Brandeis Democrats, Click Drive, Rabbis in Training (RabbIT), the Otaku Anime Club, Nashim, and the Mens Lacrosse Team, according to an e-mail sent by the Student Union.

According to Shreeya Sinha 09, Student Union Senator-at-large and director of the Club Support Committee, the club renewal process is a yearly process undertaken by the Student Union in order to ascertain which chartered clubs are still active and which are not. Sinha explained that this year, the Club Support Committee is taking the process, which consists of a survey, one step further.

Instead of only using the renewal process to take inventory of which clubs are still active, the committee will also use this process to better understand the needs of clubs and club leaders. This process is nothing new, said Sinha, but this year the club support committee wants to use the information gathered from the surveys to analyze what campus clubs need.

Additionally, Sinha wants to ensure that clubs that are no longer active are not listed on the mybrandeis website which could possibly confuse current and prospective students. One example of these inactive clubs came from Sean Patrick Hogan 07, who is listed as an administrator for the club Erin Go Braghndeis. Hogan explained, [the club] hasnt been active in years.

Problems with the club renewal process arose when certain club leaders failed to respond to emails directing them through the renewal process. The process, which began February 1, was meant to last just two weeks but when just over 150 clubs out of approximately 270 chartered clubs responded, the support committee, by Sinhas account, elected to extend the process by two extra days. When the committee saw that many clubs known to be active on campus still had not responded within the two day extension, Sinha explained that again, the committee chose to extend the process through March 18.

Sinha said that in the past, clubs that dont respond, dont exist. She added that this year marks the longest club renewal [period] ever.

At the time of the interview, 224 of the approximately 270 clubs had undergone the requisite club renewal procedures, according to Sinha. She further explained that the senators met to discuss the unresponsive clubs and among themselves, divided up the clubs in an attempt to locate the various club leaders. Sinha said that the dechartering rumor was born out of a lack of understanding from senators who were not present at the meeting. It is not a movement to decharter anyone, Sinha claimed.

One of the clubs that failed to complete the renewal process during the initial two week period and then two day extension was the Brandeis Democrats, a group with 540 members on their listserv. However, according to Brandeis Democrats President Sarah Mulhern 08, the Democrats did fill out the club renewal forms but because of a computer glitch, we ended up on the list for possible decharter. Mulhern further explained that she only heard that her club might be dechartered because of friends in Student Union.

No one paid me the courtesy of a personal phone call or email, Mulhern said, the only reason I even knew is because I have friends on the Union who told me off the record. What if I didnt have friends on the Union? It shouldnt be a patronage system.

Meanwhile, Ethan Feuer 07 and Courtney Rand 07, co-presidents of the Punk Rock n Roll club, said they were informed personally by members of the Union that they needed complete the renewal process after they had failed to do so within the initial time frame.

I was notified on three separate occasions, Feuer explained. They constantly hounded me. Rand said via email, a Student Union member contacted me on the Facebook to remind me to fill out the forms, and my fellow co-president Ethan Feuer was stopped in the Student Union office and reminded. We're more than satisfied by what the Student Union did to remind us about the renewal process.

Feuer also explained his satisfaction with the club renewal process. Overall, it works, he said, it slipped our minds, we did it, and now were all set. Weve just been busy as hell [setting up concerts].

While the Punk Rock n Roll club was contacted, other clubs were not. Mens Lacrosse, a club on the potential dechartering list, was completely unaware of the club renewal process. Jake Kann 09, captain of Mens Lacrosse, explained in an email, I actually have no idea that we were being considered for dechartering. We just started up again this year and everything is going extremely well, so I'm a bit confused about the whole process. I certainly haven't been contacted by the Student Union.

According to Sinha, the club leaders such as Mulhern that the committee had not contacted were either not on the club leaders listserve or were not listed on the mybrandeis club page. From Sinhas perspective, this communication problem is indicative of a greater problem with clubs. When leaders graduate or go abroad, said Sinha, some clubs dont know how to transition.

President of Nashim, Keren Stiebel 09 experienced these problems of transition. Stiebel explained that her clubs previous leadership has gone abroad leaving her alone to manage the club. I had no idea about club renewal, she said, last night I received an email from Adam Gartner [07, Student Union Director of Executive Affairs]. The Union did a good job with recent emails and phone calls.

Stiebel did however have suggestions for the Union to improve the process for club leaders. She suggested that the Union provide an information session or packet or brochure that every administrator gets saying these are the things you need to do in a year, a how to list.

However, Ziv Quad Senator Robbie Schwartz 08 believed the problem with the renewal process is deeper than leadership transition.

The biggest problem, Schwartz said, is that [the club renewal process] was originally approached [in such a way that] if a club doesnt fill out the forms, were going to decharter them regardless of how active they are. I thought that that was unacceptable. Schwartz continued, the process is confusingthe problem [of unresponsive clubs] is a failure of the process.

As such, Schwartz was fearful that discrepancies of paperwork could lead to the dechartering of important clubs on campus like the Brandeis Democrats. He said, it scared me thatclubs could theoretically be dechartered and people didnt seem to be too worried.

Schwartz agreed with Sinha that there exists a problem of communication with club leaders but, more diligence should be taken [to contact] clubs before theyre even considered to be dechartered.

Mulhern echoed Schwartzs statements. She said, there needs to be a step in between oh you didnt fill out your form and boom, youre dechartered. Mistakes are a possibility. Thats not a good enough reason to lose clubs that people are invested in. She added, [the Democrats] planned four or five big events this semester. [The Union] knew we exist.

Sinha, who emphasized that the senators actively tried to contact club leaders through word of mouth, explained that properly completing the renewal process is a matter of fairness. What makes your club above anyone elses?

Schwartz disagreed in this particular case. Emailing the club is not enough, in part, because of problems with the club leaders listserve, he said. Schwartz explained that the club leaders listserve sends out an inordinate number of emails causing leaders to indiscriminately delete them. As a result, expecting all club leaders to respond to the renewal email is unrealistic. Mulhern agreed, saying she gets a ton of junk mail from the club leaders listserve.

More than any problems with the emailing process, Schwartz was concerned with the negative consequences of dechartering because of missing paperwork.

You cant decharter a club without specifically telling the club, said Schwartz. That could have extremely negative consequences, especially with the Brandeis Democrats who have almost 600 people on their listserve. While Schwartz said he recognized that clubs should have completed the renewal process within the initial time frame, it is not enough to decharter based on paperwork.