Story by Sarah Fulton
With over 150 student organizations on campus, the question being raised is: How many is too many for Drake?
The approval process is handled by the Senate Student Affairs Committee. SAC Chairperson Breanna Thompson said she doesn’t think that there are too many organizations.
“I do not think it is the number of organizations, I think it is really who is involved in the organization,” Thompson said. “Drake has (a) really active student body that wants to be involved and do things. I think Drake can surely sustain it.”
Organizational Council Sen. Josh Schoenblatt thinks there is room for improvement on how organizations are run.
“Of those organizations, some of them are very strong … then there are also these organizations that pass them and in about three to four years they die out only for another organization to try and start it up again,” said Schoenblatt. “It is really a process of starting and failing. I (am) more a fan of creating strong organizations that have multiple goals, not just one specific thing.”
To qualify to an official organization, clubs must have an adviser, four members and a constitution. The members begin the process by creating a group on the community website and then the group receives an email from Thompson stating that they have six weeks to upload their constitution. During that time, the group goes before SAC who votes to recommend organizations to Senate, who makes the final decision. Thompson said that the process is to encourage people to start new clubs while still keeping it regulated.
“We do not want to hinder them in anyway by making it super rigorous and hinder them from becoming an organization,” Thompson said. “But there are certain things that need to be done within Drake to have them participate in the campus community.”
First-year Nina Liu started the Climb Iowa Drake Club last semester. She said the process was straight forward but daunting at first.
“I knew where to start but I did not want to start because it was a lot of work,” Liu said. “After I did start it just kind of flowed. It was not too difficult.”
Sophomore Mike Jennings had a similar experience to Liu when he started both the Tricking Club last year and the Weight Lifting club last semester.
“I do not think it is too easy because you still have to put in a lot of work to write a constitution,” Jennings said. “You do have to have a well thought out club
otherwise the Student Affairs Committee will not approve you and neither will Student Senate.”
However, Schoenblatt feels repetition of purpose within the clubs is something Senate needs to consider more heavily when approving new organizations.
“I think if there is something new out there, we should move along. We should move at a steady pace to get that organization passed through,” Schoenblatt said. “If two organizations are just slightly different, then all they are going to do is eat into each other. I do not see the successfulness or the benefit to the student population with that.”
Before approving an organization Thompson said her committee has the opportunity to ask the group questions. One question they cover is how the club differentiates itself from similar groups.
“An example was the ‘Help Out at Drake’ that started this past fall. It is an organization for Jewish students. So one of the questions that we asked them was how they differentiate themselves from Hillel, which was already a Jewish organization,” Thompson said. “That was something that we took into consideration when looking at their qualifications to become an organization.”
Thompson said “Help Out at Drake” argued well and went on to be approved. Schoenblatt does not favor a more strenuous application problem but believes that “integration” is a possible solution for group repetition.
“I think a more strenuous process would (cut down on repetition), however, it would also prevent people with these great ideas for new clubs from creating them,” Schoenblatt said. “I would rather have easier and more lenient rules to apply to be a club so more people do it. (Having) Senate work with them so that they could create that club and be the next big thing at Drake or just move on and try to integrate them into another club that is already going strong.”
However, he has seen this create tensions before.
“At least from my personal opinion, it is not so much trying to defend their club but that they are feeling it as an attack. In cases where I have sort of alluded to that or question that it has never been because I am attacking them or I don’t want that club,” Schoenblatt said. “I just want them to be able to be strong, and I want their messages to get out there. Sometimes by going out on your own you are not as able to be as successful as when you partner up with someone stronger.”
Liu also faced criticism that her group was repetitive, but has gone on to expand from the four required members to roughly 20 members. Thompson said that the number of group members also plays a role.
Jennings feels that four members is not enough to sustain a group, but it is a good starting point.
“Even though you only need four names to write down there are many people who say they would be interested in joining if you got it started,” Jennings said. “They have a lot of resources to help you as far as advertisings and as far as getting new members.”
Thompson says having diversity in a group is necessary to allow all students an opportunity to show leadership.
“I know that is something that is really important to the university itself is just learning outside of the classroom as well as leadership. I think all these organizations really give people an opportunity for leadership,” Thompson said. “Someone who is not going to run for a Senate position, which is a very open and public forum of leadership, does not make them a person who is not able to be a leader on campus.”
Jennings believes that the number of organizations is a selling point for prospective students.
“I know when you are first looking to come to Drake a lot of people look at the list of organizations and if they find things that interest them than they will think more of Drake,” Jennings said. “I think having a variety of organizations really helps Drake in that aspect and makes it more appealing to students.”