Orgs frustrated by lack of recognition

by Heidi Moeller / Beacon Staff and Frankie Olito / Beacon Staff • February 23, 2012

Sbs matt
Right: Molly Wolfberg, marketing director of SBS, said the organization is the only one of its kind at Emerson.
Photo courtesy of Chris Davis.
Right: Molly Wolfberg, marketing director of SBS, said the organization is the only one of its kind at Emerson.
Photo courtesy of Chris Davis.

Each year, a select number of organizations are chosen for Student Government Association recognition. As student leaders, some of whom were denied funding last fall, begin the application process, many groups reapplying say they felt snubbed and believe recognition is dubious.

Last fall, the Organization Recognition and Review Board (ORRB), the SGA committee that recommends organizations to the Dean of Students and Associate Dean of Students for approval, chose three out of 14 applications for recommendation, according to SGA President Tau Zaman. He said the number of groups that can be recognized each year varies. 

Emerson Sports Business Society was one of the organizations that applied in the fall. President of the group Nadav Swarttz and Molly Wolfberg, its marketing director, said they applied hoping their over 130-member organization could gain some acknowledgement on campus. 

“We’re the only sports organization whose mission is to educate students about careers in the field of professional sports other than being an athlete–like being a general manager of a team, being a marketer, being a publicist, owning a team,” said Swarttz, a junior marketing communication major. 

After a quick presentation in front of the ORRB, Wolfberg and Swarttz said they received a generic email denying them recognition, encouraging them to apply again. 

“One of our missions is to prepare students for life after Emerson,” said Wolfberg, a junior marketing communication major. “That’s a very significant aspect of our organization and something of ours that isn’t embodied by others. Because we align with the Emerson mission statement, we thought it would be important for us to be SGA-recognized.” 

Sports Business Society is not the only organization that has applied for SGA recognition and been turned down. Groups such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the Emerson Spirit Squad, and Emerson Quidditch have also been denied the exclusive funds and recognition in the past. 

Sharon Duffy, associate dean of students and faculty advisor for the SGA, said that only a certain number of organizations can be recognized each year, depending on the number of applications the SGA receives and the financial ability to support those groups. 

Last semester, Emerson Urban Dance Theatre, Emerson Feminists, and Your Mag were chosen to be recognized by the SGA. 

“ORRB needs to consider not only the support a group needs today, but also long-term in determining the College’s ability to encourage success,” Duffy said in an email to the Beacon. 

Among the benefits of becoming an SGA-recognized organization are the use of campus activity space, a listing in the undergraduate student handbook, and eligibility to seek money from the student activities fee.

Alexandra Grange, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said for her group to be successful with its plans to bring speakers to the college, funding from the SGA is crucial. After being denied twice, Grange said she plans to try again. 

“We want to send people in SSDP to conferences, have big speakers or lobbying, but that costs money,” said the senior visual and media arts major. “SGA recognition would help the [administration] take us more seriously.”

SSDP is currently funded through bake sales and screenings of documentaries it hosts. Grange said one of the reasons she was told her club did not receive SGA endorsement was because it is a nationally recognized organization, however, Grange said they do not receive funds from the national organization.

“We had a very consistent member base, at least 20-30 people,” she said. “We were denied because SGA said we have a national base so they don’t understand why we need funding from Emerson. They also said we did not distinguish ourselves on campus with other organizations and events.”

Zaman, who served on the ORRB last fall when he was SGA vice president, said this reasoning is false. Other Emerson chapters of national organizations such as Emerson Democrats and National Student Speech Language Hearing Association are reocognized by the SGA. The SGA does not release information on why an organization would not be recognized, he said. 

ORRB, comprised of SGA Vice President Caitlin Higgins, Duffy, one representative from each class, and one faculty representative, have the responsibility to grant recognition and funding, according to Article IV, Section 5 of SGA’s Constitution.

The ORRB also offers workshops in the spring semester to inform organizations that want to apply in the fall according to the same section of the Constitution. 

According to the Organization Resource Guide, an instructional pamphlet from the SGA, the application to apply must include a statement of purpose, a list of current members, a statement on the contribution the group plans to make to Emerson, and a constitution. 

As organizations that are recognized by the SGA can apply for funding each year, they are also able to appeal for additional funds from the SGA throughout the year. 

The Treasurer’s Handbook states that recognized campus chapter Greek organizations, the EVVY awards, and Emerson Recognition and Achievement Awards can also receive funding from appeals. Duffy said this decision was made by the SGA years ago as a plan to support  departmental programs since they were already recognized by the college and had faculty oversight. 

Swarttz and Wolfberg said they would rather see the tuition money they put toward a student activities fee given to new organizations rather than awards shows and Greek Life, which are considered departmental programs. 

“What I don’t understand is why the money that these people are appealing for wouldn’t be put into a pool for non-SGA-recognized organizations,” Wolfberg said. “All the dollars we pay in our tuition that are supposed to go toward student organizations I would hope it would be given to orgs rather than big events.” 

Zaman, a member of the fraternity Phi Alpha Tau, said he believes it is fair for programs like Greek Life to appeal. He and other SGA representatives participate in fraternities and sororities on campus. 

“I understand the concern that we may be biased, but the point is that the student government aligns its position and offers unbiased opinions,” said the junior political communication major. “There are sometimes SGA representatives that don’t want to offer their vote and they abstain. We’re a pretty small college and it would be near impossible to ensure a student government that wasn’t a part of anything else.”

Still, groups like the Emerson Spirit Squad, a 15-person cheerleading team, and Emeson College Quidditch made up of about 300 students, said they hope for a piece of the SGA student activities pool account to help pay for on-campus space. 

“We practiced on the Common the other day,” said Chrissie Szymanski, a sophomore marketing communications major and co-captain of the squad. “We would like to practice on campus.”

Organizations like the spirit squad and Quidditch face liability concerns from the college. Szymanski said the team had received SGA recognition, but because the team wanted to perform gymnastics the endorsement was taken away. 

Max Blaushild, captain of the Quidditch world cup team that is ranked fifth in the world, said after being denied recognition twice, he plans to revise the application and try again.

“We bring something very unique to the school, so we need money and cooperation from the school,” the junior political communication major said.

While many student groups will begin preparing applications for recognition in the fall, Zaman said there is never a guarantee that all can obtain the SGA’s endorsement.

“Sometimes organizations that don’t get recognized, it’s not because they aren’t good organizations,” Zaman said, “it’s usually because they just need more time to establish themselves or time to develop a bit more solidly.”