Eastern has always been known for its friendliness to new student organizations. In fact, since day one of freshman orientation, students are told how easy it is to start a student group for just about anything.
“All you need to start your own campus group is three friends!”
Unfortunately, that is now only a half-truth.
Eastern’s Office of Student Life recently made changes to the way it deals with student groups, including a method of categorizing them that leaves some groups with little more than a name and that same old group of friends.
There are now three different group categories. The first group Sponsored Student Groups (SSOs), meaning these organizations get a title affiliated directly with Eastern and get the insurance coverage to conduct whatever events they want on campus.
The second—Wait a minute…Isn’t that what all student groups are supposed to get? Isn’t that the whole point of creating a student group? Are people signing up to not get these things? The answer to that is no, Student Life just doesn’t seem to want to deal with some groups.
The second category is of Voluntarily Student Groups (VSOs) VSOs get to operate like any other group at Eastern, but don’t get the insurance coverage to host events anywhere on campus, so they have to pay insurance themselves. This category currently contains every student group on campus, which means Eastern, conveniently, doesn’t have to cover any of them anymore.
Now, VSOs can be upgraded to SSOs, but the upgrade comes at a cost that many may find unappealing. To become an SSO, groups must take on a university advisor, who will guide the group through any decisions they make in a manner similar to the Student Government Association. That’s right, if the university is going to pay your insurance, the university is going to have a hand in deciding what your group does. And your only other alternative is going to be higher dues for members so that you can afford to actually do stuff on your campus.
The third category, Non-Affiliated Student Groups (NSOs) has it even worse. They are groups the university just doesn’t seem to want around. They don’t even get to relate themselves directly to Eastern, let alone think about putting on an event. They don’t even get a mailbox in the student life office. This category is called the “Man, I just really feel like doing some mundane paperwork that will never help me” category.
This category might as well not exist, honestly. It would be easier for these people to just start an “underground” group that isn’t registered with Eastern and run things themselves. But that idea contradicts what we started with, that groups of all kinds are welcome on campus.
How did anyone think this was a good idea? We’ve been told that all student groups were created equal the entire time we’ve been on campus. Apparently not. Apparently, some student groups are just a little less equal than others. The problem with this is that those groups are now hindered from becoming as successful as the ones that Student Life deems worthy of its money and efforts to keep up. By switching to this system, Student Life is effectively dooming many groups to an ineffective campus presence.
Student organizations are started with the express purpose of gaining a following with students, hence the name “student organizations.” This new system of categorizing will stop many organizations from even getting their names out to students. Groups are going to fall apart because the campus activities they use to draw new members in and keep existing members will require insurance that they simply can’t afford. People shouldn’t be forced to leave campus to get involved with a campus group.
This also won’t help cure the continually complained-about problem of student apathy. If people aren’t willing to go to group events at Powell corner, how likely are they to show up elsewhere?
So yes, it is still easy to start a student group on campus. But good luck getting anywhere with that group unless Student Life decides you are worth its investment.
Why are we even having this conversation? Student organizations, created so students can make the most of their college experience, are being hindered. That is the exact opposite of their job. Student organizations need to stand up for their rights, or they will lose them.