New system proposedto sort student groups

Brett Knapp

Student organizations will see their relationships with the University on legal and financial matters more clearly defined if the Senate Committee on Student Affairs approves a proposal to revise certain policies.
The senate committee charged an ad hoc committee on student organizations with recommending revisions to policies governing relations between student organizations and the University.
All student organizations are currently required to enlist three students, file a constitution, register with the Office of Student Activities and comply with the University of Minnesota Equal Opportunity Statement.
The proposal would divide the more than 450 student groups that exist on campus into four subgroups to better define the University’s legal and fiscal responsibility to each group. Student organizations are currently categorized together under the same rules.
According to the proposal, a student group would be slotted into one of the four categories depending on certain criteria based on its mission and operations.
The new headings would not change the relationship most groups have with the University, said June Nobbe, director of the Office of Student Activities, but would instead clarify for the groups what that relationship is. Extra privileges would also be extended to certain groups.
The ad hoc committee submitted its recommendations to the senate committee last week during its final meeting of the school year. The ad hoc committee was made up of three students, one faculty member and one administrator.
The senate committee decided not to take action on the recommendations because it has not received any feedback from student organizations, Nobbe said.
The committee hopes to hear from student groups on the recommendations before calling a special meeting for June 11.
“We want to hear how people respond,” Nobbe said. “This is a starting point, but there are a lot of details that need to be filled in, and we’ll know those after meeting with the organizations.”
The proposal does not change the criteria for becoming a student group.
Some groups, such as the crew team and possibly the Homecoming committee, would, however, be placed in the “Campus Life Program” category and be extended extra privileges. Such privileges would include officially representing the University and coverage by University insurance.
The increasing sophistication of student groups and their needs has led to a nationwide trend at colleges and universities to redefine relationships, Nobbe said.
Administrators at the University have been exploring the possibility of redefining policies regarding student organizations for some time, Nobbe said, but recent financial troubles with the Minnesota Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly catalyzed the process.
GAPSA learned in January that it owed back taxes and penalties in excess of $48,000, and MSA had to pay the Internal Revenue Service $5,000 last fall because of oversights by its past financial officers.
The current policy on student groups led to some confusion as to how responsible the University was for the financial problems, as well as how much help it could provide in solving them. It is hoped the more detailed guidelines will clear up misconceptions about the University’s responsibility in such matters, Nobbe said.
The proposal also calls for instituting a training program that would allow the student activities office to train student organizations on how to handle their financial matters. The student activities office is also installing a new computer program to help student groups keep track of their finances.
If the senate committee passes the proposal in June, it would then go on to Vice President for Student Development and Athletics McKinley Boston for approval. The student activities office would then spend the summer educating student groups on the changes and placing them into the four categories.