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Groups apply for club status

Eileen Duffy | Thursday, November 2, 2006

Wednesday marked the final day for Notre Dame students interested in forming a club to apply for University recognition through the Office of Student Activities.

Assistant Director of Student Activities Amy Geist had received 15 applications by mid-afternoon, but was expecting upwards of 25 by the 5 p.m. deadline.

Groups turned in a thick proposal packet, which included a constitution, schedule of events, tentative budget, written approval from impacted departments or offices on campus, list of officers and official proposal form. Despite the preparation, they have to wait about a year and a half before they’ll learn whether they’ve been granted club status, Geist said.

Before granting club status, the University requires a club to go through a probationary year, where the club puts its proposal into action. And before that probationary year of club status even begins, a prospective club must meet three approvals.

The process begins with Geist, who looks through proposal packets to make sure they’re complete.

She then hands the proposals to Student Activities Director Brian Coughlin for the “University filter.” Coughlin makes sure the groups aren’t “in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church of the mission of the University,” Geist said.

Geist said she could not specify what type of group would be denied club status at that stage.

AllianceND, an unrecognized gay and lesbian student group, is one group that has applied for and been denied club status for two straight years. Similar proposals have been denied nine times in the last 10 years, according to a March 22, 2005 article in The Observer, and no gay and lesbian student group has successfully secured official status.

The groups that do make it past Coughlin’s filter are passed on to the Club Coordination Council (CCC), which is comprised of representatives from six club divisions – academic, athletic, cultural, performing arts, social service and special interest.

Prospective clubs then meet with the division they’d likely be allocated to and the representatives from that division return and present to the rest of the CCC, she said.

This year, those meetings will take place in January, Geist said.

“They’ll give a synopsis of each of the groups … and they’ll recommend whether or not groups are given probationary status,” she said.

The CCC then votes on whether to grant groups probationary status or deny recognition.

Geist said a major factor in the CCC’s decision-making is financing. The Financial Management Board gives the CCC one-third of the $95 student activities fee all students pay, which amounted to $278,000 last year, Geist said. Proceeds from The Shirt also benefit student groups.

“If it’s a group with an outrageous budget, with no hope of raising funds and no grasp of other alternatives, that might be a significant [deterrent] for the CCC,” she said, “because they can’t financially accommodate it and have the other groups we have, too.”

Once they’ve made their decisions, the CCC sends its recommendations back to Coughlin.

“For the most part, he supports the recommendation of the CCC,” Geist said.

During the three years they’ve been using this process, he’s never contradicted it, she said.

Of the 10 to 15 groups that applied last year, four were denied probationary status. During Geist’s five years, she said she’s had several groups apply more than once, but none have applied all five years.

Geist said in some cases, basic confusion is to blame for a club’s failure to obtain recognition.

“I find sometimes students don’t realize they didn’t even apply for club recognition,” Geist said. “They’ll submit one thing or come talk to me about something, but not actually follow our official process.”