The Undergraduate Council of Students passed a revision to its Code of Operations Wednesday, allowing for official recognition of student groups whose primary purpose is fundraising for off-campus organizations.
Because the Student Activities Fund comes out of students' pockets, student groups have not granted official categorization of any kind unless their efforts directly benefit Brown students — as opposed to external charities, for example.
"The money is meant to be spent for students on campus and not just to be filtered through off-campus organizations," said UCS Student Activities Chair Brady Wyrtzen '11. But the idea of adding a new category for service groups had been percolating since last spring, he said.
UCS has traditionally classified student groups as Category I, II or III. Category I encompasses most new groups, granting little or no financial support, while Category II and III status provides major clubs and organizations with stipends from the Student Activities Fund. Since last year, there has also been Category A for club sports, which receive recognition but not money, Student Activities Director Phil O'Hara said.
The addition of Category S, proposed last week and approved by the UCS general body without argument, allows clubs created for the benefit of causes not related to Brown to get all the University support of a Category I group except for money.
These privileges include incorporating the school's name into the group title, using a mailbox and other resources in the Student Activities Office and having permission to table-slip, said O'Hara, who met with Wyrtzen and supported the UCS Student Activities Committee.
Wyrtzen, who devised the proposal along with the SAC, said the code change "was definitely something that we wanted to get going on as quickly as possible" because the SAC already has had to turn down fundraising groups requesting categorization this fall.
One of those groups was Nourish, a group whose mission is "to fight global poverty" by supporting "sustainable development projects," according to Carolyn Brown '11, who started a chapter of the club on campus and said she hoped it would be granted Category S status. The advantages of formal University acknowledgment, Brown said, include being allowed to reserve room space and announcing events through Morning Mail.
UCS President Clay Wertheimer '10 said the addition of Category S was "a smart solution."
"There's definitely some gray space," he said. Groups that incorporate teach-ins, lectures or other ways of spreading awareness around the community, he said, are still eligible for Category I, II and III status.
Brown said her group does not need University funding because the organization's national office provides it, but that if Nourish were to receive a portion of the Student Activities Fund, it would go toward spreading awareness of world hunger and recruiting student participants. "We weren't trying to funnel money directly from University resources," she said.
Whether or not the new categorization will affect existing groups is still up in the air, though Wyrtzen said it probably will not. The purpose of the code revision was "to incorporate the groups that we've had to turn away already," he said, adding that if there are categorized groups that, upon reevaluatio,n seem better suited for Category S, "We might have to boot them."
The debate over which groups are eligible for University funding — a "long, philosophical discussion," according to O'Hara — has been present for decades, he said.
A challenge for UCS, O'Hara added, is that because students "only have four years," it is "hard for a student group to have a long view." Still, he said, the decision to recognize fundraising organizations will have a lasting impact, because their role is "a long-term issue."
— With additional reporting by Kyla Wilkes