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Student Organizations & Activities to collaborate with about 90 groups on student inclusivity

Brent Turner, executive director of Campus Life, addresses Associated Student Government senate on student group inclusivity. SOA plans to meet with 90 student groups this quarter on ways to be more inclusive.

Lauren Duquette/Daily Senior Staffer

Lauren Duquette/Daily Senior Staffer

Brent Turner, executive director of Campus Life, addresses Associated Student Government senate on student group inclusivity. SOA plans to meet with 90 student groups this quarter on ways to be more inclusive.

Jake Holland, Assistant Campus Editor

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Student Organizations & Activities now plans to meet with about 90 student groups this quarter to discuss ways to increase inclusivity, an administrator said.

SOA originally planned to meet with all of the more than 500 student organizations on campus, but ended up selecting nearly 90 groups that still use competitive selection processes, SOA director Kourtney Gray said. The office plans to ask student leaders for feedback about inclusivity recommendations, Gray said.

The initiative, Inclusive Barrier-Free Student Organization Engagement, will address issues of student membership such as high dues and lengthy application processes, Gray said.

Because students have already settled into their established roles for the year, Gray said SOA will spend this quarter working with student groups to prepare for the 2017-18 academic year. He said completely open enrollment has never been SOA’s central focus and that the office will instead “collaborate” with student groups to improve accessibility.

Justine Yucesan, co-director of the promotions committee for Mayfest, said though the group would like to accept every applicant, logistical barriers prevent Mayfest from doing so.

The Communication junior cited concerns such as security for performers and physical space backstage as reasons for restricting membership.

“There’s only a certain amount of work that can be distributed amongst our members by the nature of what we do,” Yucesan said. “It’s unfortunate that we can’t have 100 people backstage at events, but by the logistical aspects of the work we do, it’s not always possible to have that big of a (membership).”

Still, she said the group is actively working toward greater inclusion. This year, Mayfest interviewed every applicant despite an increase in applications, she said.

Yucesan, who is also on the executive board of A&O Productions, said A&O has reserved spots for freshmen in the organization, as well as tickets for low-income students.

Weinberg senior Will Corvin, co-chair of A&O, said the group is still working out specifics with SOA. One potential change would be creating a general membership section for A&O, he said.

Both Yucesan and Corvin acknowledged the difficulties faced by SOA in contacting such a large number of student groups, with Yucesan saying she “appreciated” the efforts SOA has taken thus far.

Gray said creating a general membership section in groups would allow students –– especially underclassmen –– to explore various groups and make their voices heard. Though he said general members add to the “richness” of student groups on campus, he acknowledged the importance of member engagement.

“Our goal isn’t to create opportunities of engagement just to have opportunities of engagement,” Gray said. “We want to add some substance to that.”

He said most groups provide open enrollment already. Because of this, SOA will work most closely with those who hold application processes, he said.

Gray currently advises Mayfest and A&O, and other members of the SOA office advise other large student groups such as the Contemporary Thought Speaker Series, Associated Student Government and Dolphin Show, he said. These connections will allow for better collaboration going forward, Gray said.

“It’s an ever-growing process, and we may not get it right the first (time),” he said, “But we’re definitely going to be more open to feedback from the student population on how we can help support their engagement.”

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