In an email to the student body on Wednesday, the Student Government Association (SGA) announced that it has opened its application period for new student organizations. Last September, SGA did not accept applications for new student groups, while the group’s Committee on Student Organizations (CSO) worked with the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) to examine student groups’ practices, missions, funding and other criteria.
On Thursday, SGA announced in an email to the student body that the Women and Gender Minorities’ Caucus (WGMC) would be accepting applications for new members. Established by SGA in December, the WGMC is meant to bring together cis women, trans women, non-binary members and other gender minorities in order to discuss and address women- and gender-based issues.
The News-Letter spoke with students from SGA and student groups about the impact of the end of the moratorium and the formalization of the WGMC.
End of SGA ban on new student groups
Last week, in light of the end of the audits, SGA voted to pass a bill which will open the application period for new student organizations from Feb. 1 to April 30 on a trial basis. CSO Chair Chase McAdams explained that applications are typically reviewed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year.
Barnstormers President Ritika Kommareddi shared her excitement about the lift of the moratorium.
“I’m really happy that it is happening, especially about offering the new freshman the opportunity to have these outlets that we might not have been able to offer at Hopkins,” Kommareddi said. “Definitely a positive.”
CSO will be responsible for overseeing the application period; previously, SLI supervised this process. Former Korean American Students Association (KASA) Co-President Aran Chang expressed hope that CSO would be more aware of diversity than SLI. Last spring, Chang recounted difficulties communicating with SLI about KASA’s budget and status.
“It was really awkward trying to approve KASA because SLI didn’t understand why we existed. Other cultural groups who were trying to become an official organization also felt there was a lack of understanding of different cultural identities,” Chang said. “Students are more in tune than SLI administrators with what students are looking for. But CSO was in charge of the audit, and they didn’t handle that very well. Now they are going to be in charge of a bunch of student groups.”
Over winter break, Chang circulated an open letter with the anonymous signatures of 34 student groups, expressing frustration with SGA. In the audit, Chang stated that many organization leaders experienced difficulties communicating with SGA about the audits.
SGA plans on meeting with the 34 student groups, which Chang views as a positive step. However, he remains concerned about the lack of detail from SGA in addressing their concerns.
CSO Chair McAdams, a senior class senator, expressed his frustration with parts of Chang’s letter that he viewed to be unfair, noting that SGA and SLI held a summit to present guidelines for student organization budgets, operating guidelines and the auditing process.
“I’m not sure what more communication they wanted. We sent out the deadlines. We sent out we were going to do it. We hosted the summit and discussed the audit there. We sent out the criteria that we used,“ he said. “The letter also outlined something about the concern of SGA retaliation. To me that is offensive that you would expect me to be so unprofessional to be targeting orgs.”
McAdams added that only 11 student groups were deactivated because they didn’t meet the minimum 10 members required.
Freshman Class President and CSO member Breanna Soldatelli added that SGA has talked to different student organizations with similar goals to prevent redundant groups.
Soldatelli also mentioned how the registration period has been extended.
“We listened to what our constituents were saying, and everyone was saying that it would be unfair to have [the application period] for a short period of time,” Soldatelli said.
McAdams elaborated on this process.
“The reason we only did it for this spring is because we don’t know if it would be too much for the CSO to handle,” McAdams said.
McAdams said that students should apply towards the beginning of the application window as each organization needs to be reviewed by the Risk Management and Insurance prior to recognition. The process could take several months.
Women and Gender Minorities’ Caucus
Spearheaded by Senior Class Senator Chanel Lee, the Women and Gender Minorities’ Caucus (WGMC) is now accepting applications for new members.
Lee, a senior class senator and chair of SGA’s Health, Safety & Sustainability Committee, explained why they created the caucus.
“The reason for the bill came from my own experience. I’ve been in many situations where my insights and experiences have been scrutinized because of how I look, and I think women and gender minorities are in a unique position where we face various societal pressures,” Lee said. “These weigh down on our perceived competence, how we navigate academic settings and ultimately how we present ourselves to the world.”
Lee said that they hope the caucus would address many of such gender-based issues while providing a safe space for people to feel comfortable about sharing their own experiences.
The schoolwide email announcing the WGMC noted the recent end to the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality Teaching Fellowships, which have allowed graduate students in all disciplines to teach undergraduate courses in feminist and queer history and theory.
While the WGMC was passed under SGA, which serves the undergraduate students, Lee said that they hope that graduate students would also take part in the caucus.
“I really envision the caucus to be as inclusive to everyone on campus,” she said.
Deeya Bhattacharya, the co-president of Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU), expressed excitement for the creation of the group.
“I’m really happy about it. I’m excited to see what it is to the table,” she said. “SARU, for a long time, has been one of the few resources for survivors of sexual assault and a lot of gender violence issues.”
She looks forward to SARU working with WGMC and hopes that a member of SARU’s executive board would be part of the Caucus.
While she is glad to see improvement made at Hopkins in dealing with sexual assault, she believes that there is still much to be done. According to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE)‘s second annual report, , released in October, 2018 saw 765 reports to OIE, an increase from the 502 reports in 2017. University President Ronald J. Daniels told The News-Letter in December that the median time for OIE to complete a formal sexual misconduct investigation dropped from 256 days in 2017 to 148 days in the second half of 2018.
“I do think that there has been a lot of change in the OIE in the past couple of years but I do think that there is a lot more work to be done and more resources that could be provided,” Bhattacharya said. “The creation of the Caucus is a step in the right direction.”