Next time, ask current students before you change the handbook

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Photo Credit: Weatherly Sawyer | Daily Texan Staff

If you ever went on a tour of UT as a prospective student, you most likely heard your Guides of Texas tour guide boast about the variety of student organizations at UT. You might have even heard them say the popular phrase “It only takes two friends and $20 to start an organization.”

But they can’t say this charming phrase anymore. 

UT Student Activity Center recently emailed student leaders of campus organizations to inform them about a new student organization requirement. According to the email, old and new student organizations will be required to have at least 10 members on their HornsLink roster when starting an
organization in January and re-registering in April. 

This announcement seemed sudden to some, such as Grace Schrobilgen, health and society junior. “I think that at the very least the Office of the Dean of Students should have consulted with students before changing their policy regarding membership requirements,” Schrobilgen said.

Susan Buckenmeyer, director of Student Activities, said it wasn’t as sudden as it seemed, because the office consulted with the Student Government Assembly two years ago. However, Buckenmeyer, said, some of the students they consulted with have since graduated. 

Since this new policy impacts current students, it should have been brought to the attention of this school year’s Student Government before being implemented into the institutional rules in September. 

There has been pushback since current legislative bodies were not able to give their input or opinion on the new requirement. Both Liberal Arts Council, in association with Senate of College Councils and the 2018–2019 Student Government Assembly have written legislation against this new requirement. Buckenmeyer said she has discussed the issue with Liberal Arts Council, but the new requirement will stand since it is now written in the
institutional rules. 

Buckenmeyer explained the reasoning behind this new requirement, “Ten members isn’t arbitrary. We benchmarked with other institutions and looked at how many members most organizations on campus already had through annual registration data.” They found 10 was a common amount of members in
successful organizations. 

Schrobilgen is the president of a student organization called The Language Campaign, which works with English as a Second Language high school students. The Language Campaign has a total of
eight members.

The email sent stated the Office of Student Activities would be willing to help organizations who do not meet the requirement, such as Schrobilgen’s, to grow. Schrobilgen said the email did not explicitly explain how the office would help them and she doesn’t believe that they even should.

“Learning how to grow an organization on your own is a valuable learning experience,” Schrobilgen said. “I don’t think I would have learned nearly as much if someone had been directing me in what
to do.” 

When asked about what help the office would offer, Buckenmeyer said organizations with less than 10 members are not going to be made inactive or eliminated. “We’re going to do a coaching program,” Buckenmeyer said. “They’ll connect closely with our office and go over their goals … We don’t have set requirements yet, but they’ll be minimal.” 

Regardless of the work the Office of Student Activities will put in to assist organizations through the change, an institutional rule should not have been passed without input from current Student Government members. This year’s Government Assembly should have been consulted about the new membership requirement. The requirements for organizations who do not meet this number also should have been initially transparent. A situation such as this one should not happen again.

Torres is a Plan II, English & creative writing junior from San Antonio.