Sri Murthy: Constraining student organizations is University overreach

Student organizations are an essential part of the college experience. They define who we are, and give us a place where we can share mutual passions, interests and ideas.

But last week, Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller announced that because there are nearly 500 student organizations on campus, the Center for Student Engagement will enforce stricter rules with new groups.

Prospective groups are encouraged to demonstrate that they have a unique purpose at GW and that their mission can last at least four years. If they cannot prove this, Miller told The Hatchet, they will have to join existing groups, making it more difficult for some new groups to form on campus.

It isn’t the CSE’s role to control the growth of new organizations and determine which groups should be able to exist. By hindering the rise of new groups, the CSE has decided to stifle GW’s student life – which builds the sense of community our campus so desperately needs.

The Student Association – which is in charge of allocating annual funding for student organizations – has already accounted for the increasing number of student organizations. Last year, the SA passed a resolution mandating that incoming students pay slightly more each year to add to the student group funding pool.

And beginning last year, the SA asked all organizations to submit their planned expenses in the spring as opposed to the fall, giving the finance committee more time to plan funding in advance.

Miller does have a point. It’s important that our campus isn’t overwhelmed by student organizations with similar missions.

But student leaders are already cognizant of the growing number of groups. And instead of attempting to stifle them, they’ve put plans in place to make the funding process as effective as it possibly can be.

The SA does not evaluate funding for organizations based on how they compare to similar campus groups, SA Finance Chair Ryan Counihan said. In fact, the SA bylaws prohibit them from doing so.

The rise in the number of student groups is something Counihan has already thought about.

“While the Finance Committee has been forced to cope with the rise, and it has put a strain on our budget, this has not yet drastically taken resources away from existing student orgs,” he said in an email.

Counihan mentioned that down the road, if the number of student organizations continues to grow at an exorbitant rate, it might force the SA to redistribute money from current organizations to fund new organizations.

But because the SA has already taken precautions, it’s unnecessary for the CSE to get involved. In their well-intentioned attempts to be proactive, they’re actually being inhibitive.

Just because some student groups overlap doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t all exist. For example, many theatre groups at GW may share similar purposes, but by having multiple groups, they are able to maintain their distinct identities and continue to put on more shows. The CSE should allow the SA to allocate the money based on these plans instead of trying to prevent new groups from forming.

Miller told The Hatchet that down the road, having enough advisors for these groups could be a problem. But when it comes to student organizations, which are essential for an engaged student body, hiring more advisors is a cost worth footing.

The expansion of student life is essential for GW because it allows students to express themselves in new ways. As new generations of students attend GW, they should have the ability to form new groups that fit their individual interests, which might not always exist at GW. By limiting new groups from forming, the CSE hinders the ability for students to create and participate in groups that closely match their interests.

It’d be a better idea for the CSE to direct its attention elsewhere.

The writer is a sophomore in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.