It’s a dream some students have when they come to UMass. As scores of campus groups table and recruit freshmen throughout orientation and the first weeks of the semester, fantasies of creating a new group are at the forefront of the minds of new students. I should know: Almost four years ago I stood in front of the Student Union imagining a British history club, dedicated to discussing my favorite historical topic at the time.
But how do you actually start a group on campus?
The Student Government Association approves many Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) every semester, allowing them to book University space and apply for budgets.
However, there are some important things to consider before you embark on the process. First and foremost, ask yourself whether your proposed group is unique. In the case of my idea for a British history club, it was not: There is a fantastic History Club on campus that devotes time and discussion similar to my proposed topic.
This is not uncommon, and since the SGA cannot approve an infinite number of RSOs, we encourage groups to work together or to merge. We encourage students to check out the UMass Campus Pulse website to make sure that your prospective RSO is unique, or talk to someone in the SGA Office in Room 420, located in the Student Union.
Secondly, it is purely practical to refrain from working alone. This is because every RSO must have at least 10 members. Moreover, having a team takes a lot of the strain off your shoulders and allows for a more open process. Plus, the unified quest for RSO status is a great bonding experience and will no doubt help your group out once it becomes official.
One of the final things to keep in mind is that marketing is of paramount importance. It is essential that you spread the word and build your membership. Sure, you only need 10 to move through the process, but does that mean you want to stop there? You never know who might be interested in joining, so talk to as many people as possible.
Once you have considered these three things, you will be confronted with the requirements of becoming an RSO as well as the application process. The application is on Campus Pulse and requires quite a bit of information, like officer names and details, the details of the 10 undergraduate members, a signed statement of non-discrimination and a statement of justification regarding prospective RSO status, among other things.
Your charter is incredibly important, as it will serve as a guiding support for future leaders and members. At its most basic level, a charter must contain a process for voting by the membership, a fair and democratic method for election and removal of officers, a description of officer positions, a statement of free speech and clear procedures for conducting your meetings, to name a few.
I know, it sounds like a considerable amount of work. But think of what you are achieving: Like more than 250 people before you, you are creating an institution that will leave a lasting legacy for years to come, impacting students like you who are celebrating and promoting a common interest or cause on campus.
You will gain experience as a leader and as a mobilizer of students on a large scale, with the satisfaction of creating an organization designed to benefit thousands of students. You will have the opportunity to spread your mission, advocate for your cause and share your interests with a diverse population of students, staff and administrators, making lasting connections and changing perspectives in the process. Above all, you will have the support of the SGA and Student Activities behind everything you do and all that you try to accomplish.
It sounds incredibly cheesy, and I know you have heard it every moment form the day you stepped on campus, but you have the opportunity to make a difference on campus. Everyone wants to get involved, but not everyone knows how or what to get involved with. You can be the one who stands up for your passion, unites others who think as you do and creates something that will serve students like you for generations.
Garrett Gowen is the vice president of the SGA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.