Each fall, the Involvement Fair showcases the many opportunities for students to get involved in clubs and organizations on campus. This year, a new club tried to recruit members, though they were not an officially registered club yet. The new club, called the Larger Rubber Club for bicyclists, set up a bike in the grass area in Harney Plaza with an attached sign to advertise. Students seemed to be intrigued by this new group and were waiting to get their names on their sign up sheet. But when another student complained that the bike club had not signed up to be in the Involvement Fair and was taking up space, Public Safety escorted them from Harney Plaza and instructed them to register before the Involvement Fair in order to participate.
These bike enthusiasts were not making it harder for other groups to attract students to their tables, nor were they taking up any table space.
The founder of the Larger Rubber Club said, “We just started getting the petition going and we’re writing the constitution and getting signatures. We are kind of joined with back to the roots but we want to be associated with everyone.” The Foghorn was unable to get the name of the Larger Rubber Club founder.
He said, “Since I wasn’t registered they told me I couldn’t be at the fair at all. So we came up with an agreement that I wasn’t going to be on the plaza, but I tried to be as close as possible to try and get as many people as I could to get the bike club recognized.” This made it hard for Larger Rubber to get members, but the founder said, “Today we have more than 85 signatures. I was just trying to be involved and get others involved with my club and that should be encouraged.”
By Student Leadership and Engagement standards, if a new group wants to form they can register four times during the school year: once in the fall and once in the spring. If not registered, groups cannot participate in events like Involvement Fair, nor can they utilize other club services or reserve rooms for meetings.
This problem is not exclusive to new clubs. Last year, AIESEC, the USF branch of the international student-run organization, missed their deadline to re-register their group. The group was banned from participating in the Involvement Fair. Daniela LaBounty, a senior business major and a member of AIESEC said, “If you have registered through OrgSync, Student Leadership and Engagement are very nice and accommodating, but if you miss a deadline they make it a lot harder for you to be involved.”
During the Involvement Fair, groups can publicize their organization to the student body and attract a lot of their members. Denying the groups from participating is denying them access to all the students who are looking to get involved with a new group on campus.
In order to register a new group, the executive board of the new group must meet with a member of the Peer Advising Team. Then the group must put together a petition of prospective members, find an advisor and write a constitution for their club and submit it again for approval. Then the group must attend a mandatory club orientation, which occurs twice in the fall semester, and twice in the spring semester.
If a group wants to start in the fall semester, they have to wait until January for their group to be considered a group and then they are allowed to be in the February Involvement Fair. This timeline made it impossible for the new bike club to get approved before the registration deadline for the fall Involvement Fair after missing the registration date in April, and also makes it impossible for first year students to recruit club members at the first involvement fair of the school year in September. The bike club members were escorted out of Harney Plaza, and fewer students had the opportunity to become involved in this club.
This way of organizing groups on campus discourages students from trying to start a club that is tailored to their interests because of the laundry list of approvals and meetings each group has to go through. It is good that there is a process for groups to be official, but the process should be easier.
Darren Pierre, coordinator of student organizations for SLE, said unregistered clubs are not tolerated on campus because SLE does not want clubs popping up that promote hate or intolerance.
New clubs should be recognized even if they have not gone to the orientation. They could be put in a different category of “probationary club” or “new club” before they attend the orientation. They should still have access to classrooms for meetings and feel that they are a part of the USF community.
Pierre told the Foghorn that the club registration process is open for reevaluation every year, and we feel like it still needs to be amended. At the involvement fair, unregistered groups should be able to have a sign up sheet at a separate table indicating that these groups will be starting soon and they need members. Perhaps a section of the fair could be devoted to such unregistered clubs so they would not take up space from other registered groups but could still make their presence known. There also could be more opportunities for clubs to register throughout the year. Pierre suggested that holding more than one involvement fair per semester might help clubs that register late to recruit members later.