SGA group-recognition hearings delayed until fall

by Beacon Staff • April 12, 2006

The Student Government Association's (SGA) Organization Recognition and Review Board (ORRB), which holds hearings for groups seeking SGA recognition, will not meet this semester. Instead, it will convene in the fall, SGA Vice President Samantha King announced recently.

King said she believes this is the first time the board has not met for an entire year.

As a result, fledgling organizations seeking recognition and money are having trouble finding the funding to meet their financial needs.

Lauren Johnson, president of Emerson Model United Nations and a Beacon copyeditor, said she had been hoping to get her organization recognized this spring.

"It's disappointing, because we really can't plan in advance as much as we would have liked to," said Johnson, a junior print journalism major.

Johnson said SGA funding would go toward participation in Model United Nations conferences and public diplomacy events at Emerson.

While the group still plans on attending a Chicago conference in November, Johnson said now they will not have the means to organize other events.

"Some of the diplomacy events may not happen because we won't have the financial means to do so," she said.

Although the SGA Constitution states, "the ORRB shall meet once per semester," King said that the board has been meeting only once a year in the spring for some time. King, a senior organizational and political communication major, said that the ORRB usually ends up meeting at the vice president's discretion.

"While I had hoped to meet in the spring, I have decided to revamp the system [of meeting during the spring semester]," she said. "I don't feel confident that we have the resources to recognize new student organizations."

By delaying the process until the fall, the SGA will have access to a replenished pool account, the money collected from student activity fees each year, King said.

King also said she recommended that $2,500 be placed in the SGA's operations account for new organization initiatives, and will suggest to the recently elected executive board that the ORRB meet in the fall to hold hearings for new organizations to become SGA recognized.

If new organizations gain SGA recognition early in the year, they can apply for funding from the Financial Advisory Board (FAB), which determines the amount of funds recognized organizations receive, King said.

"I believe the new process is in the best interest of the organizations," King said. "It is my hope that we'll be able to support more initiatives."

Any organization or group of students may submit an appeal to the SGA president for consideration, regardless of whether or not they are recognized by the SGA, according to Associate Dean of Students Sharon Duffy.

However, some groups are feeling the burden of trying to get recognition during this transition.

Senior film major Alexis Mayer, president of Films From the Margin, a group that weekly screens non-mainstream films, said members of her group tried to contact SGA about the ORRB meeting but were discouraged when they didn't receive a response. She was further disappointed when it was announced that the ORRB would not meet this term.

"I think the SGA is responsible for communicating with the student body about all things that affect the student body," she wrote in an e-mail interview. "The decision to hold or not hold the ORRB meeting should have been made in the beginning of the semester."

Mayer, who met with King and SGA President Kirsten Daniel on Tuesday to discuss the new ORRB process, said the SGA Constitution gives her organization a chance at being examined for recognition.

"We're not saying 'recognize us,'" she said. "We're saying give us the opportunity to be recognized."

Senior Erin O'Brien, who leads Emerson's Digital Media Group, a new media-oriented group that was created to organize ideas for web projects and related events, was denied SGA recognition last year. The costs for the group's major project, a Web site for Emerson students to sell used books or items or post "help needed" announcements, have been covered by the group members for the past two years, O'Brien said.

The fact that the ORRB was not meeting this semester was frustrating, because without SGA recognition, it is difficult for new organizations to book space for events or a table for the Organization Fair in the fall, said O'Brien, a new media major.

These younger groups could team up with similar organizations that are SGA recognized to book a table or event space, King said.

For students like Mayer, this is a less appealing option.