On Sunday evening, the Student Union Senate unanimously passed a set of bylaw amendments restructuring the process of club recognition and chartering. Major features of the revised bylaws include a probationary period for new clubs and restructured club proposals. 

Class of 2020 Senator Tal Richtman and Class of 2018 Senator Abhishek Kulkarni introduced the amendments last week following an observation by the Club Support Committee that too many clubs are approved by the Senate without the proper support or resources to help them flourish after establishment. 

In the past, a club was first recognized, giving them access to the basic resources on campus, before being chartered, at which point a club could receive money from the Student Union Allocations Board. Recognition requires prospective club leaders to draft a constitution, create a general plan for the club’s first year, receive 150 signatures from undergraduates and hold a meeting that at least 10 committed members attend. After 40 academic days, recognized clubs may request chartering, which requires submitting an additional 150 signatures, an explanation of their initial activities and another meeting with both Senate groups. 

Richtman and Kulkarni’s amendments change this process, emphasizing giving clubs a strong foundation for their first semester. New clubs will now have to submit a detailed, goal-oriented semester plan with quantifiable definitions of success for both the club leaders and the Senate to evaluate their accomplishments. 

No longer are clubs required to submit the 150 signature lists composed of arbitrary student body signatures. Instead, 15 members must submit paragraphs explaining their interest in and dedication to the club. Clubs will have a series of educational meetings with the CSC and then will give a presentation in front of the Senate before entering a new “probationary status.” 

Probation lasts 14 weeks, during which newly founded clubs will work closely with the CSC and the Allocations Board before their organization is officially established and eligible for chartering. Clubs are also eligible for a small amount of funding from the beginning, rather than waiting 40 days after recognition. However, the clubs must work closely with the Student Union to ensure that they are learning the most beneficial uses for their finances. 

Richtman describes the probationary period as “not an investigation, but an educational, learning, teaching [and] supporting process for club leaders.” The new process provides a means for not only the Senate to evaluate clubs but also for clubs themselves to reflect on areas in need of improvement. For Richtman and Kulkarni the beginning of a club should be like starting a small business, and they designed the probationary period to foster a relationship between clubs and the Senate akin to that between a start-up and its investors.

“It’s like a start-up: it wants to develop. [Club leaders] provide a presentation and then the Senate decides, ‘Yes, I want to invest,’ and then we, the Club Support Committee, [are] the consulting company that helps it to get to its goals within the probationary term,” said Richtman.

The probationary period also streamlines the Senate’s process for approving clubs while strengthening the Senate’s trust in the clubs it is approving. The past process monopolized a large portion of the Senate’s general meeting time without measureable data for success of the clubs in question. Almost all clubs proposed were recognized, said Kulkarni: “Unless they’re exclusive, we had no reason to say no to them.” Additionally, the CSC seeks to minimize duality of purpose between clubs and University departments. 

By the end of the probationary period, clubs will have proven themselves sustainable and supported on the University campus. They will have set quantifiable goals for membership and event attendance, which will help clubs measure success as time passes and get specific help from the CSC, Richtman and Kulkarni explained. At the end of each following semester, clubs will reflect on their successes in a club report, continuing a cycle of critically examining the progress campus groups are making toward becoming established.

“We want to make the goal as measurable as possible, and then that way a semester later when [the Senate] comes back and evaluates them, … it’s a framework to measure their progress against,” added Kulkarni. 

In order to address the overarching issues of dissolving clubs and thinned allocations, the CSC has spent a year constructing these proposals. Richtman and Kulkarni reached out to different universities across the country to explore their approaches to club recognition and chartering. Talking to other student unions, the senators realized their reforms should ideally go even further in the future to foster greater club success. Future amendment proposals may include establishing faculty advisors for clubs to further improve sustainability and impact, Kulkarni said.

All previously established and chartered clubs will not be affected by the new accreditation process. However, new club leaders may be in talks with already established clubs, in instances of duality of purpose, on how to collaborate on similar objectives. 

Richtman and Kulkarni said that they welcome members from the student body to attend CSC meetings and be a part of the process of improving club support resources and relations with the Senate. Additionally, student opinions may be submitted to the CSC Facebook for consideration by the committee.