The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary recently amended its bylaws to include more stringent regulations on student group recognition, with the new process to take effect at the beginning of the spring semester.
The Judiciary implemented the changes in light of a rapidly increasing number of groups on campus, according to Chair of the Judiciary Becky Darin Goldberg. The high volume of groups is unsustainable due to limits in campus space and university funding, she said.
“We have over 300 [student groups], and then 40 came to us this semester seeking recognition,” Goldberg, a senior, said. “We have one group for every 12 students. That’s insane. We are a smallish campus of 5,000 undergrads, and 10 years ago we had 50 groups, and so all of a sudden we are on this really exponential rise towards a completely unsustainable number [of student groups.]”
To address the situation, the Judiciary decided to create more stringent criteria for initial recognition and give its bylaws more power to de-recognize groups, according to Goldberg. Prior to the amendments, a group applying for recognition — after having existed for at least one semester — needed a valid constitution, proof of three events and at least 15 members, she noted.
The new guidelines for recognition require a list of members with specific information about each person, Goldberg added.
“Our amendments are going to now require a strict enforcement … of 15 members … and with the members we need first and last name, email address, class year and phone number if the members are willing to disclose it,” she said. “And this is because we need to see that this group could be sustainable on a four-year cycle.”
Goldberg explained that at least one-third of a new group’s executive board must be composed of underclassmen, and the list must not include marginal group members, such as people who signed up at a general interest meeting or the activities fair or people who are just on the club’s e-list.
“A lot of groups have come to [us] saying, ‘Look, we’re a huge club, we reach a lot of people within the student body,’ and they give us their e-list, and we [say], ‘Listen, do you know how many e-lists every student is on?’” Michael Kalmans, re-recognition chair of the Judiciary, said.
According to Goldberg, members are now defined as undergraduate students who attend the majority of the meetings or events held by the group. Proof of attendance can be supplied to the Judiciary through hard copies of sign-in sheets at the meetings, Kalmans, a sophomore, explained.
Another change to the bylaws concerns the process of re-recognition, and Goldberg explained that the Judiciary would like to recognize groups that contribute positively to the Tufts community as a whole.
“We are trying to change the mentality of student groups,” she said. “A group of 15 or so friends who have a common mission don’t necessarily need to be recognized.”
Goldberg said that every group seeking re-recognition must have held at least two events per semester that are open to the entire student body, including social and educational events like panel discussions, guest lectures, workshops or collaborations among multiple groups.
“We are really trying to transition into getting groups to think [that] in order to be a recognized group, you have to do something beneficial for the campus … most organizations do this already, [so] this is not going to be a big … shock for most groups,” she said.
However, there are exceptions to the two-event policy since it may not apply to performance groups and publications, according to Kalmans.
For a group like Spirit of Color, he said, the semester performance counts as an event. For publications, at least one issue should be put out per year. Groups that compete with other schools, such as Tufts Mock Trial, will now be required to hold a workshop open to the entire student body in order to share what the members have learned in the club.
Above all, the Judiciary hopes to see groups give back to the campus environment, according to Vice Chair of the Judiciary Jon Zfira.
“We of course want as many different groups as possible … but we want to see that [groups] can actually perform and contribute something to the campus dialogue, to the campus life, beyond just 15 friends sitting together in a room [and] talking,” Zfira, a senior, said. “Based on our constraints … we need to draw a line somewhere.”