By IONA BATCHELDER
Every semester, students at University High School (UHS) have the opportunity to participate in and start new clubs. These clubs can relate to pretty much anything, ranging from academic activities and community service to leisure activities. The unique opportunity for any student at UHS to start a new club, providing that it does not overlap closely with any existing club, is a great facet to the student body.
This year, the process of creating a new club has changed. Some changes are completely new, while others are simply more strict reinforcements of existing rules. For example, the rule that all clubs are required to submit budgets and keep minutes stemmed from new state regulations. UHS Associated Student Body’s (ASB) Clubs Commissioner, Kristina Shia (Sr.) said, “clubs are required to keep [budgets and minutes] up to date in case of audits by the state. The changes to the club registration process [had] a lot to do with liability issues for the school. Advisors are required to attend off campus events because a certified staff member must be present while a club is representing University High School.”
Ms. Rector (Office) is very supportive of the changes, despite the added work that the Student Activities Center will face. She added that the requirement of a budget and minutes was because of changes in the state education code. She went on to clarify that club budgets can be revised at any time to reflect changes in the club’s agenda. She said, “One of the reasons that we have clubs on campus is for a learning experience for our students. By requiring the club treasurer to put together a budget, it gives club members a chance to sit down and think about what they’re spending, what they’re making and what the money is going towards.”
The reinforcements of existing rules are primarily about the responsibilities of club advisors. Advisors must now be present at all off-campus meetings and events of the clubs that they advise. In addition, they must remain in their classrooms during lunch if a club is meeting there.
I went through the process of starting a new club this year. I asked many teachers to be advisors, and almost all of them turned me down. Many said that they already had two or three clubs that they were already advising, a number that seemed to be the capping point because I did not meet any teachers who were advising more than three clubs.
However, quite a few teachers also told me about how they were not advising any clubs this year because of the changes. For example, Ms. Campbell (Social Science Dept.) said that she has advised many clubs in past years, but this year, in addition to being a member of several school and district committees, she noted that there seemed to be a lot more demands for advisors, in part because of the addition of club budgets and club minutes.
She also said that she could not devote her little free time outside of school to going to off-campus events for clubs, a recurring reason that teachers could not advise clubs. Many of them have families outside of school, and those who teach many advanced classes spend much of their “free time” grading tests and such. How can they be expected to devote their little free time to student clubs that may or may not be a legitimate use of everyone’s time? Other teachers that I talked to said that their departments met during lunch, so they could not remain in their rooms overseeing student clubs.
I agree with Ms. Rector’s statement that change is good in regards to the introduction of a budget and minutes into the club process, additions that would help reinforce some semblance of organization in UHS clubs. I find the extra responsibilities heaped on advisors slightly ridiculous, however.
I understand that the extra responsibilities are mandated by the state education code and that UHS as a school cannot change these regulations. I also understand the need for an adult to be at all off-campus events to make sure that everything is being run legally and safely, but why make the club advisor specifically come to the events?
A great solution for the problem would be to have all members of clubs that meet off-campus sign waivers stating that they are aware that an adult must be present at all meetings. That adult would not necessarily have to be the advisor of the club; a parent would suffice, provided that he or she remains at the event at all times and makes sure that everything is well.
I had to ask about 30 teachers whether they could advise my new club, and I would say that about half of those teachers refused solely based on the new responsibilities that they had to deal with (the other half already advised too many clubs). UHS teachers already devote so much of their time to this school through their jobs, and their weekends are filled with school-related activities like grading. Why make them come to off-campus events and keep up with budgets and minutes on top of their already busy schedules?
All in all, Kristina Shia, ASB and Ms. Rector are all doing their jobs wonderfully by implementing these changes. Although I agree with the rationale behind the changes, ASB should do something to meet the needs of students and teachers as well. Too many restrictions on clubs will only prevent students and teachers from enjoying the club experience that makes UHS unique and diverse.