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Committee on Student Life Approves 42 New Student Groups, Rejects 19

Members of various student organizations on campus publicized their groups to freshmen and upperclassmen at the Student Involvement Fair.
Members of various student organizations on campus publicized their groups to freshmen and upperclassmen at the Student Involvement Fair. By Megan M. Ross
By Junina Furigay and Kenton K. Shimozaki, Crimson Staff Writers

The Committee on Student Life approved 42 new student organizations at its monthly meeting Thursday, finalizing a process that for the first time included the Undergraduate Council’s input on new clubs.

Newly approved student organizations include the Harvard College Left Forum, the Harvard College Veterans Organization, and the Harvard Israel Summit.

Of the 19 groups which were denied recognition, the Undergraduate Council deemed many of the proposals to be “duplicative” of other organizations that already exist on-campus. Table Talk and Harvard Fitness were two such groups. At least four clubs were denied because they failed to show up for their mandatory interview.

Though the committee unanimously accepted the UC’s recommendations without revisions, several House Faculty Deans expressed concerns about the proliferation of student organizations on campus. The committee voted to establish a subcommittee that would study the issue further.

Alexander R. Miller, the College’s associate dean of student engagement, said that he understands some of the concerns about the proliferation of campus groups and will work with committee members to discuss new policies in the future.

“In the meeting, we heard from the committee an interest to not only evaluate the recognition of new groups, but also the review of current ones,” Miller said.

The Committee on Student Life is a student-faculty committee created by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to oversee the rising sophomore housing lottery, to discuss residential policies across Houses, and to grant College recognition to student organizations. Several Undergraduate Council members, Office of Student Life administrators, and House Faculty Deans sit on the body.

The Office of Student Life did not accept applications for new student organizations during the spring 2017 term as the Committee on Student Life reviewed the recognition process. In fall 2016, the last time new clubs were approved, the committee recognized 11 groups of 22 total proposals, according to Miller.

New student groups approved Thursday will hold provisional status for two semesters before undergoing review by the UC for full recognition, according to Miller. Provisional organizations will enjoy the privileges of all “recognized independent student organizations,” but will be required to meet yet-to-be determined standards.

College recognition confers an array of benefits for student groups, including the ability to apply for grant funding, reserve spaces for events, and recruit on Harvard’s campus—benefits denied to unrecognized groups, such as final clubs and Greek organizations.

The UC finalized their recommendations for the Committee on Student Life in a special session on Tuesday following a last-minute appeal process. While no Council member voted against the proposed recommendations, several representatives said they were concerned about “conflicts of interest” and a lack of external transparency in the process.

Several committee members voiced concern over the now 479 recognized student organizations. But Jack W. Deschler ’19, a committee member and Cabot House Committee co-chair, said that he is not worried about the large number of clubs.

“If there are 470 clubs and each student is in one, that is roughly 14 students per club, and that does not seem too unreasonable,” Deschler said. “Some of the most valuable pieces of my Harvard experience have been these extracurricular activities and getting to know all the people that I am surrounded by.”

—Staff writer Junina Furigay can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @junina_furigay.

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