Moratorium on student groups to last until spring

The Association of Student Activities announced that it will not be recognizing new student groups this fall on its website, citing an increase in student groups, time needed for the ASA to update policies and transition to a new database, and that the organization itself is understaffed.

According to the ASA website, the moratorium will remain in effect for the fall semester only and the ASA will still re-recognize qualified existing groups. During this time, the ASA hopes to streamline the group recognition process for the future by transitioning to a new online database.

“Group recognition requires a lot of time on behalf of the people on the board: two exec members need to meet with each group for fifteen minutes for approval. It’s really not sustainable for all parties,” ASA President Nichole Clarke ’18 told The Tech. “Having seen what it had done to previous board members as well as having an understaffed board, which has sadly started to become common for the ASA, it made the most sense to undergo the group moratorium.”

According to Clarke, the ASA’s solution to the extensive time it takes to recognize groups was to implement a new online application process. The online application will allow the ASA to  “request updates to group applications and be able to ask for clarification on parts of it, which would decrease the number of groups that are ‘tabled’ or have not submitted clear information,” she said.

This overhauled online application was slated to come out in the fall with a trial period over the summer, but the timeline was pushed out by “circumstances outside of the ASA.” It should be officially in use for the spring semester.

ASA advisor and Director of Student Activities Leah Flynn Gallant is excited for the changes the database will bring.

“We’re rolling out the new database this semester and are actually outsourcing this work to an outside company,” she told The Tech. “The biggest change will be that the interface will be more user-friendly, resembling what you’d see on a social media website. Sloan [School of Management] actually contracts out to the same database company for its own student groups.”

“The database will bring many updates that will streamline the group recognition process as well as make it clearer where an application stands,” Clarke added. “The same will be true for all forms that exist on behalf of the ASA including LEF-ARCADE, space applications, and postering applications, to name a few.”

Prior to the ASA’s announcement on its own website, the decision to enforce a group moratorium was discussed with the ASA board and the Student Activities Office was aware of this process.

According to Clarke, group moratoriums have been placed in the past, and the ASA has worked closely with the SAO to meet with groups applying for recognition to discuss “alternative routes” such as forming departmental groups or aligning with existing student groups.

“The last time this happened was around three or four years ago, and only for one cycle like the current moratorium,” Gallant said. “This was for constitutional review and to examine ASA bylaws.”

Groups that have applied for recognition this semester are being emailed a denial and are encouraged to reach out to Elizabeth Thompson, the Assistant Director for Student Activities and Leadership within the SAO, for advice on next steps to take. Thompson is acting as the ASA’s advisor for the next few months while Gallant takes maternity leave.

“There aren’t many people on ASA exec right now, and so while student groups are rightfully angry they aren’t being recognized, it’s important to realize that the ASA is comprised of students,” Gallant said. “There are five members, and over 450 total student organizations on campus.”

“It’s not the sexiest job in the world, but it’s certainly needed for the student body. I’ve seen a trend in the past three or four years where the number of board members is declining. You don’t get a lot of recognition for being on board, but we really encourage people to join if they want to improve the process.”

In its emails denying groups recognition, the ASA also asked students to apply to the ASA Board. “We encourage interested students to participate on the ASA Board. Joining the Board is a great way to get involved with ASA activities,” read one email sent to Larry Wang ’18, who is trying to form a student group called Video Game Orchestra.

“It’s sort of a plea for help,” Gallant said.

According to Wang, Thompson told his group to either partner with an existing student organization or get sponsored by an academic department. “There seems to be no temporary measures put in place to help transition clubs,” he said.