The University Record, February 11, 1998
By Kerry Colligan
Undergraduate student clubs in LS&A may see increased funding and faculty and administrative support in the coming months. In a report presented to the LS&A faculty at their meeting Feb. 2, David Schoem, assistant dean for undergraduate education, outlined the benefits of increasing resources allocated to the clubs.
"Students involved in these clubs are really integrating intellectual ideas with other areas of their lives--athletics, parties, social gatherings. They are building a social context around academic issues," Schoem said. "The clubs provide real visible alternatives to other kinds of pursuits on campus, often social in nature."
The LS&A Joint Faculty-Student Policy Committee report--"Developing and Strengthening Departmental Undergraduate Student Clubs"--discusses more completely the importance of providing College-level support to the clubs. "Departments serve as the intellectual 'homes' for faculty members' disciplinary scholarship and teaching. In the absence of such clubs, undergraduate majors in some cases may experience their department only through a menu of courses. Too many students miss out on the rich intellectual climate and activities that are the foundation of the College's scholarly environment."
At present, there are 44 undergraduate student clubs in LS&A. Student leadership in those clubs is one of the reasons Dean Edie N. Goldenberg agreed to help support the clubs. "The idea of getting students involved and helping them become more active in the intellectual community is a good one," Goldenberg said. "Our confidence in the student leadership [in LS&A Student Government] led to a joint funding arrangement."
LS&A has agreed to match funds raised by student government to support student club activities that in recent years have included publishing student journals, hosting academic conferences, tutoring, hosting lecturers and speakers, and participating in community outreach programs. Schoem said that the committee is considering additional funding options as well. Though many of the clubs have fundraisers or dues (ranging from 5 cents to $50), the clubs present an opportunity for alumni endowments or sponsorship of specific events.
Regardless of funding, the findings of the report were consistent with the comments shared by those in attendance. Good work is being done in these clubs and has been done for a number of years, Schoem noted.
Martha Vicinus, Department of English chair, shared comments from others in her department. "The success of the clubs is due in large measure to the enthusiastic leadership of the students. To keep that going is the hardest task that we face."
Summary of the recommendations outlined in the report:
An undergraduate student club should be established in each department. (Students in some larger departments sometimes find it necessary to establish more than one club.)
Faculty and staff support is essential to the success of departmental student clubs, and their contributions should be recognized as legitimate service and work in annual reviews.
While departmental support of student clubs by designating faculty and staff advisers and by allotting office space is greatly valued, students must take the lead to achieve a successful club.
Student clubs can organize various types of activities, including academic, service and social activities.
Departments must provide at least a minimal level of funding support to clubs, but additional possibilities for funding should also be pursued, including fundraising, proposals to LS&A Student Government, and donors and endowments.
In order to sustain a strong student government over time, LS&A Student Government should utilize the good work and student leadership found in departmental clubs, as well as the intellectual and social diversity represented by the student body.
Departments should consider including undergraduate students from the clubs for service on appropriate departmental committees.