The Trade-offs of University Recognition
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 24, 2014 03:01
When an official pro-abortion rights student group at Boston College started its condom delivery program, they were immediately stonewalled by the university, yet when H*yas for Choice started a similar system at Georgetown the administration could only stand back and watch. The difference? H*yas for Choice is not recognized by the university as an official group, and since its funding comes from outside sources it can do as it pleases.
The relationship between official and unofficial groups at Georgetown has taken many twists and turns over the years, with some groups seeking university recognition, others shunning it and a few reveling in their autonomy.
Unrecognized organizations like Greek life groups face issues with gaining legitimacy and overcoming the public wariness that accompanies their unofficial status.
“It takes more time for people to feel comfortable with us because we are not recognized,” Sigma Alpha Epsilon Deputy Recruitment Chair Tanner Davis (SFS ’17) said. “We don’t want people to be skeptical of our organization.”
Members of other unrecognized groups feel many students question the worth of joining their group if it is unrecognized.
“Obviously there is skepticism because if the school doesn’t recognize them, people will question ‘Well, are they for real? Is this something that is worth being in if the school doesn’t recognize it?’ so it kind of puts doubt in a lot of people’s minds,” Alpha Epsilon Pi President Josh Milgrom (MSB ’15) said.
South Asian Society President Shantel Jairam (MSB ’15) said that the popularity of official clubs does not lie directly in their status as official or unofficial, but indirectly, as official clubs have the ability to get more resources for events.
“It’s legitimate in the sense that things come easier to recognized clubs, so we are more able to have more fanfare around our events … so we look more legitimate,” Jairam said. “I think if someone had strong leadership in an unrecognized club, it could be the same thing.”
Another disparity between unrecognized and recognized organizations is the ability to receive university funding. For unofficial groups, all funding must come from members or donations.
“Obviously the benefits are access to benefits. If we didn’t have access to the finances of the Student Activities Commission, we wouldn’t be able to put on as much programming … and it would probably make organizing more difficult,” GU Pride President Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) said.
Unrecognized groups find this lack of funding a challenge for their organizations, as it restricts events and programs organizations can host.
“We operate completely based on donations we get and fundraising that we do throughout the course of the year, which means that we are very limited in the speakers that we can bring in, in the events we can hold, in our ability to publicize our events because printing is exceptionally expensive, so putting up flyers and posters is hard,” President of H*yas for Choice Laura Narefsky (COL ’14) said.
However, because unrecognized groups provide their own funding, there are no restrictions associated with the money.
“Since our budget is coming off of us from our members, we don’t have the restrictions that other clubs do in terms of using money to throw parties or using money to throw different events,” Milgrom said.
While unofficial groups have financial independence, official groups like GU Pride straddle a thin line between representing their views and staying in line with the university’s Catholic doctrine.
“I sometimes joke that the access to benefits policy is really an access to my speech policy where, because we have access to benefits, we are limited in the type of events that we can put on, the type of speakers that we can bring to campus, and as representatives of that organization we walk a very fine line when we engage with either the university administrators or certainly outside media,” Lloyd said. “My frustration comes from the fact that I wish that recognition didn’t come with so many asterisks and so many hoops to jump through.”
In the end, the student groups see the compromise that comes with their recognition or lack thereof.
“It’s a tradeoff. At the end of the day, there are great benefits to both. Obviously not being recognized, we have a lot more freedom in what we do. But being recognized, like I said, that would just be so much easier to get our name out there, but then again you have to deal with potential restrictions,” Milgrom said.