Last March a group of students began working to start a UNICEF club here at Skidmore. The UNICEF Campus Initiative became an official Student Government Association (SGA) club on Feb. 3 this year, but it was after a lot of time, work and dedication from the club leaders.
“Starting a club is just as everyone says it is, it’s hard,” said Monica Villegas ’16, who is the current president of Amici D’Italia. Amici D'Italia is another group that is in the process of working to hopefully become an official club here at Skidmore.
Villegas who was born and raised in Italy speaking Italian wanted to start Amici D’Italia “because I want people to learn about the Italian culture and know it as I know it.”
The founding members of UNICEF wanted to make it an official club on campus for many reasons. One of their main reasons was that UNICEF USA requires that any UNICEF Campus Initiative be an official club on its respective campus. Another reason was so they would have their own funding and because they felt, “people might not want to be a part of something that is not already established [as an official club] because they fear that the club might disappear one day and their active participation might not be recognized later on,” said Alexandra Palthey ’16, UNICEF Club President.
“Being an SGA club gives you SGA's full support, commitment, and backing. The club also gets a budget through SGA funds,” said Megan Schacter ’17 Vice-President for Club Affairs, when she was asked about the advantage of being a full club.
The process for becoming a club begins when those hoping to start a club meet with the Vice President for Club Affairs. After this meeting, the club fills out an intent to organize form and works to collect 300 signatures from members of the student body. Recently Big Brothers Big Sisters was in the D-hall Atrium tabling to get people to sign their name on their club list in hopes of helping them to become a club.
Once the club has the 300 signatures, they meet with the Club Affairs Committee (CAC). Here, they explain issues like why they want to start a club and their plans for the club. The CAC then votes to put them on an eight-week trial period or not. During this time, they function as a full SGA club. Four weeks into the trial process, the club leaders meet with the Vice President for Club Affairs for a check in meeting to discuss how things are going. Then, at the end of the eight weeks, the club goes back to CAC to prove that they are ready to be a full club. CAC then votes to endorse the club to senate or not. With or without the endorsement, the club can then go to senate, where the senators vote on whether to provide a charter.
Amici D’Italia just ended their trial period on March 4. During their trial period, they hosted bi-weekly meetings and a showing of the best foreign film of 2014, the Italian film “The Great Beauty.”
This isn’t how the process has always been. During Schacter’s term as Vice President for Club Affairs, she has been working to change the process. “This year, I lengthened the trial period to eight weeks from the original four weeks, in order to give groups more time to prepare and strengthen themselves before coming to CAC and Senate for charter approval.”
Additionally, Schacter said that she is working to change the current polices; so that on the same day Senate approves the club charter, they will also approve the club’s budget. “This will eliminate any lag time between when a group is chartered and when they receive their budget,” said Schacter.
UNICEF’s process for becoming a club took a longer then usual and differed from the typical process described above because when they began the process of becoming a club, “we went to SGA asking to be a club, and they assigned us under Benef-Action, citing that we are a community [service] club,” said Anh Vu L Nguyen ’17, a co-founder of UNICEF at Skidmore. The founders of the club though soon realized that Benef-Action was pretty different in their approaches and aims compared to UNICEF, so UNICEF club founders want back to SGA in late April to become their own official club. SGA told Unicef to come back in the fall though, as they were too late in the year.
At the beginning of this school year, UNICEF got to meet with the CAC and SGA and begin a trial period for their club. The trial period lasted almost the entire fall 2014 semester, and during this time the club hosted many events and collaborated with other clubs. “One of the most successful series of events that we did was the Halloween week,” said Nguyen.
Not only did UNICEF have to prove that they could host events and operate as a club during their trial period, but they also had to show that the club could be sustainable. “We had a change in leadership, and that showed that there were people other than the e-board then who want to be with the club,” said Nguyen.
Hard work by the UNICEF leaders paid off and the club became an official SGA club in early February, but it is currently unknown if hard work will pay off for Amici D’Italia, like it did for UNICEF, and if SGA will vote in favor of making them a club.