Several student organizations are protesting a new rule mandating all groups to hand in the names of their members to the Student Activities Center. The requirement, effective this semester, is a way to ensure that all members of registered organizations are students, officials said.
Tim Miller, SAC associate director, said the University now mandates all members of organizations to be students in part because “it’s called a student organization for a reason.”
“Literally in the past if a group wanted to, someone’s mom could be a member,” Miller said. “(A student organization) is meant to be run by students.”
He said there were times in the past where alumni were involved in leadership and financial roles in organizations, and had the ability to dissolve them.
He also said an “emergency situation” last year involving a student organization member caused the University to rethink its policies concerning membership rules. He declined to comment on the specific incident.
The Student Organizations Aligning for Rights group, speaking out against the policy, is made up of 14 registered student organizations. The organization includes the College Democrats, College Republicans, the Out Crowd, the Student Alliance for Israel, the Islamic Alliance for Justice and the Muslim Students’ Association.
Graham Murphy, executive director of the Out Crowd, said SOAR is giving GW a week to “act in good faith and change the policy,” before “upping the heat.”
He said if the policy is not changed, SOAR will seek more media coverage and possibly ask for legal help from the ACLU, which has been contacted.
He said organizations involved in SOAR dropped off letters in the SAC office Wednesday stating their claims.
“We believe it’s very important to keep our membership information confidential,” Murphy said.
“We’re dealing with gay students who may not be comfortable with being out, and it’s our responsibility to protect their rights.”
Murphy also said the group’s constitution states that all information at meetings, including membership, is confidential unless someone is put at risk or in harm. He said his group brought up the problem at the SAC registration meeting, but was not told of available waivers.
Miller said all groups were required to turn in their membership lists online by Wednesday, but some groups could receive extensions from their SAC advisers if needed. He said three groups received waivers from the policy,because it was in direct violation of their constitutions. He declined to disclose the names of the organizations.
He said groups can apply on a case by case basis to be exempted, but groups must have a “tangible” reason for amending their constitution, other than just wanting to keep member names anonymous.
Miller said only some SAC officials will have access to the list. Although some students expressed concern that Student Judicial Services might have access to the names, Miller said he has yet to discuss it with SJS officials.