Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 30, 2024

Hopkins prohibits new arts and service groups

By DIVA PAREKH | September 21, 2017

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The University’s Office of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) announced that they will not accept new performing arts and local community service groups this year.

According to SLI Director Kirsten Fricke, the Center for Social Concern (CSC) and the Homewood Arts Program (HAP) implemented the restrictions.

Administrators decided to stop accepting new performing arts groups because they argue that there is not enough space on campus for groups to hold practices and performances.

Regarding service groups, CSC Associate Director Gia Grier explained that ideas for new groups often focused on issues already covered by existing organizations. She discussed some prevailing trends in community service at Hopkins.

“There are popular topics, [including] health. Working with the youth is a very popular topic as well, so we do have some overlap in our network already,” she said.

Grier also cited challenges between student organizations and non-profit  community partners. According to Grier, service organizations tended to switch too frequently between community partners, resulting in underdeveloped relationships.

She also said that with the high number of groups, many are stretched too thin and struggle to retain their members.

Grier  elaborated  that smaller groups are often unable to meet the 10-student minimum requirement.

“Our staff advisors, including our category coordinator representative, and peer student group intern advisors noticed that some of our student organizations have not been serving as consistently as they had in the past,” she said.

Some students like freshman Smitha Mahesh were disappointed after learning about the restrictions.

“I believe social service and performing arts organizations have a huge positive impact on the community and limiting their creativity means limiting their outreach,” she said.

HAP Director Eric Beatty said that while there are no redundant arts groups, HAP has faced logistical challenges while running 22 dance groups and 12 a cappella groups with almost 500 members. According to Beatty, this was a major factor in the decision to stop accepting new performing arts groups.

In an email to The News-Letter, Beatty explained the difficulties of finding time and space for performances.

“Restrictions on both space and time for practice and performances have caused challenges for these groups, which need specialized space for most rehearsals and major performances,” he wrote.

He addressed the impact renovations on Shriver Auditorium and the auditorium have on the space available for performing arts groups.

“It was clear that we simply couldn’t absorb additional groups without exacerbating these issues,” Beatty wrote.

Beatty also addressed time constraints on performing arts organizations. Because showcases tend to take place during the final few weeks of the semester, groups are often competing for performance times.

He said that the University could alleviate some concerns by investing in an arts auditorium that seated 350 to 400.

Sophomore Erin Chen tried to start a new community service student organization during the spring of 2017 but was denied. Coming into Hopkins, one of Chen’s goals was to start a Special Olympics Club.

“Special Olympics is a global organization that gives athletes with mental disabilities an opportunity to participate in sports,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “The goal of the club was to organize groups of volunteers to go to events on Baltimore, organize and host events at Hopkins.”

Chen addressed the impact of the restriction on new student groups on the student body, particularly on first-year students.

“I know many students will be able to join already existing clubs so it will not affect them as much, but it prevents some students from bringing whatever unique interest and skill to the community in Hopkins and Baltimore,” Chen wrote.

Chen understands the reasons behind the restriction but believes that CSC could have addressed difficulties through other measures.

“It is unfair to prevent new clubs from forming because of former unproductive ones,” she wrote. “The CSC, instead of saying ‘no clubs can be formed,’ could have made it more selective with tougher vetting to prevent unproductive clubs from being created.”

Chen also brought up the emphasis the Admissions Office places on how easy it is to start new clubs at Hopkins.

“To prevent any new clubs from forming really goes against what this school advertised when many students applied here: that it is very easy to create clubs at Hopkins,” she wrote.

Junior Matthias Gompers started his own a cappella group, The Gilman Underground, during this past academic year. Gompers agrees with Beatty on the difficulty in finding performance and practice space.

“Unless you’re willing to just take a random classroom in some random building, there aren’t a lot of practice rooms,” Gompers said.

Gompers is also on the executive board of a service group under the CSC. He spoke about how he recognized difficulties the administration face in managing the numerous student groups.

“Logistically it probably is hard for the CSC and for Eric and the HAP to just manage all of those groups,” he said.

Fricke does not believe that the restriction will have an impact on the student body’s engagement with the Baltimore community, instead emphasizing the importance of having a strong existing set of groups.

Grier elaborated on opportunities available for students through the CSC’s new HopServe50 program. Individually or through a group, students can register their community service work with HopServe50 or look for new opportunities on the Community Bulletin.

“This is in response to students who have been asking for ways to serve that are not tied to a student group,” she said. “We want to make sure that the groups and this new initiative complement each other and do not end up competing for the same pool of students.”

Grier emphasized the importance of students with similar ideas working together and with similar existing organizations to make a greater impact on the community. After the restriction on the formation of new student groups had already been applied, Grier was approached by three groups requesting an exception.

“We referred them to the existing group that they had things in common with,” she said.

Beatty said in an interview with The News-Letter that he is uncertain of whether the restrictions for arts groups will be in place after the 2017-18 academic year.

“I think the potential for accepting new groups will depend less on the existing current student groups unless for some reason one group decides to disband, and that has happened,” he said.

On the other hand, Grier wrote in an email to The News-Letter that new community service organizations will be allowed to form from the 2018-19 academic year onwards, though the CSC will be working more directly with student leaders to prevent organizations from becoming ineffective.

“We want to work with our student leaders to establish new guidelines to enhance the following areas: consistency in service, quality of support for our community partners, and learning outcomes for students,” she wrote.


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