Students to Vote on Social Club Proposal
Issue   |   Wed, 09/30/2015 - 03:01

The student body will vote Oct. 5 on whether to adopt a one-semester trial period for social clubs.

The social clubs proposal, first introduced in fall 2014, has undergone months of revision and debate. A vote was originally scheduled for May 2015, but the work group postponed it in order to make further changes to the proposal.

If the proposal is approved by the student body, the Social Project Work Group plans to collect ideas for clubs and hold a second vote for the student body to decide which ones will become clubs. The work group will also continue bi-weekly meetings over the course of the semester, in order to incorporate student feedback.

The vote is intended to gauge the student body’s opinion of the proposal in its current form. Even if the proposal is rejected in this vote, the work group plans to continue discussions.

Virginia Hassell ’16, a member of the work group, said the group has not yet established a source of funding for social clubs.

“At this point, it’s premature for the administration to promise funding for the initiative until we receive the results of the vote,” Hassell said. “There is the possibility of receiving funding through existing student funds on campus.”

The vote on social clubs was postponed partly because of concerns, voiced by James Hildebrand ’15, that the clubs lacked guidelines on issues including sexual respect and inclusivity. The work group modified the proposal to include mandatory bystander and anti-hazing training and met with the Women’s and Gender Center, the Multicultural Resource Center and the Queer Resource Center to gather training resources.

Another reason for the postponement to this semester was the fact that the vote would not affect graduating seniors, and members of the work group wanted to take into account the opinions of the current first-year class.

“Whether you’re in favor or not, we want the vote to accurately portray students’ opinion,” said work group member Meghan McDonough ’16.

Hassell said the proposal has been condensed to a few major points, but is largely the same as the version that was presented in May.

“The main thing for us this semester has been making sure that students are adequately educated on the proposal to make an informed decision, so a lot of [our work] was clarifying our mission within the proposal,” she said.

Over the past few weeks, the work group held information sessions in first-year dorms and sent postcards out to student mailboxes. They also plan to table in Frost Library and Valentine Dining Hall in the days leading up to the vote.

“It’s really important that we emphasize [tabling], because that’s really students’ opportunity to come talk to us in person, clarify any questions that they might have and to really have conversations about social clubs,” McDonough said.

The vote is to be administered by the Association of Amherst Students Elections Committee, but the AAS has no other official involvement with the proposal.

“We can project as much as we want. We’ve spent hours discussing these clubs, but we can’t really know until we actually see them laid out in practice,” Hassell said.