Whose umbrella is it, anyway?

Ben Whelan

A new initiative by the administration to have the student centers act as “umbrella” groups for clubs with similar goals has recently caused some controversy on the campus center third floor, home to many clubs and centers. One of the biggest differences in opinion regarding this shift is between the Haitian American Society and the Black Student Center, the former of whom would fit under the proposed “umbrella” of the latter.

It has always been the case that centers, who receive more funding than clubs, have paid coordinators and are held to a much higher standard of programming, are meant to lend support when necessary to fund clubs with similar goals and interests. This new initiative is meant to make the system a little more organized. “The trend [in other colleges and universities] has been towards differentiation” explained Kelly Meehan, Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, “so that’s the direction we’re moving in”. However, in order to give more power to individual clubs, many believe that it may be useful to collaborate with the centers and pool resources to make everyone’s experience better. One example of this is that many clubs and centers share advisors, and it would be much easier for them to do their jobs if these clubs were more consolidated. “The goal here is to increase collaboration between groups who target similar groups of students’ added Meehan “we’re not trying to compromise anyone’s identity. Our hope is that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts”.

Tania Lamour, president of the Haitian American Society, expressed her clubs concerns that how the new “umbrella” system would work. The specifics of the new policy have not yet been articulated to her and she worries about how her club would be effected. “My only problem with the term umbrella is that we were not given an exact definition of what it truly means”, Tania explained “How much power will the centers have over the clubs who are used governing themselves?”

She was also quick to point out that many of her members are also members of the BSC, but the club does not currently have any joint projects on the table with the center. The HAS received enough funding to do what they have planned and have already started laying the groundwork for their big event of the year, Tchaka Night, which has been around for a decade and has been one of the most wildly successful events on campus for much of that time.

In a statement, Erica Singletary, coordinator for the BSC had this to say about the proposed “umbrella” system and its effect on HAS and BSC relations: “Upon much examination of the memberships in both groups historically, members of BSC were members of HAS as well as is the case with Cape Verdean Student Association and African Student Union. Senate knows that, and the administration knows that too. Repeated events and the infighting don’t make it any better either. So it won’t be long before they get the picture and make the next logical steps in terms of resource allocation. Working together and creating the model on OUR terms before it is too late would behoove us all. Unfortunately many are unclear as to what the expectations of clubs and centers are and there needs to be clarification.”