posted 2012-02-01 10:31:11

Students Dissent over Decision to Reallocate Club Space

Student clubs organize to create an alternative solution 

Jenady Garshofsky

Editor in Chief

Days before the close of last semester, student representatives of clubs and organizations in Thomas Hunter received an email notifying club officers of a redistribution of club space. The decisions, made by the Student Space Allocation Committee, prompted negative responses from club representatives and members who felt the allocation assignments were decided undemocratically. As a result, student club members met over the winter break preparing alternate solutions to the space assignments.

Early in September, club officers were told to fill out an application discussing their club and why it deserved space. The Student Space Allocation Committee (SSAC) reviewed the applications and examined the club spaces in Thomas Hunter throughout the course of the semester.

The objective of the SSAC was to move clubs throughout Thomas Hunter to allocate more space for clubs that did not have a room. Jarret Freeman, the USG Cultural Affairs Commissioner, told worried students, “nearly 20 more student clubs, with over 300 additional students will now have a shared space in Thomas Hunter Hall.”

The contention between club members and the SSAC resulted from clubs’ anger and disappointment over a lack of representation. Bronwyn Roe, the president of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) said “Everyone is in agreement that it is less about the process of allocating space, but more about the undemocratic nature of the decisions.”

An emergency meeting was planned by disgruntled club members to strategize ways to cancel and override decisions made by the SSAC. The meeting, which was organized less than 24 hours in advance, gathered over 30 clubs. At the meeting, Delicia Jones, a student activist, said, “we have been working democratically. We can do the job better... and without the whole committee.”

One student representing a club who wished to remain anonymous said, “This is not surprising in line with the CUNY administration. However, it is surprising that it’s students making these decisions.”

The student meeting faced some dissension when Freeman walked into the room. Many students requested that he leave, while others felt it could be beneficial for him to be present. Freeman stayed for part of the meeting before silently leaving of his own volition part way through. The next day, most student clubs and organizations in Thomas Hunter saw a neon flier taped to their door on Dec. 20th. In the statement, Freeman offered consolation to students and let them know he was not personally responsible for the decisions made by the SSAC.

“I want you to know that this was a process that did not happen overnight. The committee is made up of your peers, clubs with and without spaces, officers of both USG and GSA. Though it is chaired by me, I do not get to vote on the room assignments. The procedures are overseen by the Office of Student Activities and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs,” the letter read.

SSAC members include: USG president Ranette Garcia, USG senator Benedict Joson and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Jarret Freeman. However, Freeman has received the majority of the negative feedback from students’ reactions to the allocations.

The president of Lesbians Rising, Jenna Young, said, “The SSAC is trying to move us to TH 113, right next to the security guards.” In the past, the Queer Student Union (QSU), an unofficial union that brings together the chartered clubs Lesbians Rising, Gay Men’s Alliance and Students for Transgender Rights And Progress, has had a few altercations with Public Safety: including derogatory name calling and kicking students out of the bathrooms despite their specified gender orientation, according to Young. “We brought to Teneia that security guard treatment has left a long-term scar on how students here feel about security, we don’t feel safe, even though it’s been a while since that instance,” Young said. Young was also concerned that moving to the first floor could put students at risk from remaining anonymous and maintaining a safe place for students to talk about gender issues. There is no official LGBTQ center at Hunter.

Danielle Amodeo, president of Paths to Animal Liberation and Hunter Sustainability Project said, “Basically, the SSAC made all of these decisions on how to make club life better and accommodate more clubs, but screwed all of the clubs that already had rooms by making everyone change and kicking some people out.”

Other concerned representatives of student clubs residing in Thomas Hunter have also set up meetings with Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development Teneia Wooten and Freeman to discuss their reservations with the decided upon space allocations. Wooten was unavailable to answer questions for this article.

Over Winter break, dissatisfied club members held four discussion meetings and have worked to create a student club union, Hunter Student Clubs United, which plans to meet every semester to deal with club issues, be an outlet for student voices, and hopes to ultimately replace the SSAC. Over 158 student clubs have signed a petition and collectively drafted a written statement of disapproval.

“The creation of a student union for instance, would serve as a driving force behind spearheading a campaign that calls for democratizing all decisions made on our [students’] behalf by the administration,” said Sarah Pomar, a junior majoring in sociology.

The SSAC plans to utilize space in Thomas Hunter to create a multi-purpose clubroom for clubs to hold meetings in. Another club space will serve as a storage space where clubs that don’t have rooms will have a locker – with access granted to club officers only.

As of now, all moving plans have been postponed and many clubs, which have arranged a meeting to discuss their individual case, will not be moving. Ben Joson, USG Senator and chairperson on the SSAC committee said, “ I was working with Jarret before winter break and we decided to postpone and halt the allocation process so clubs could speak with Teneia and Eunice. The process is still halted and we are taking this time to listen to student concerns.”