The University of Minnesota has hundreds of student groups, from the Admissions Ambassadors to the Students for Gluten Free Awareness, so there are countless colorful ways for students to add extracurricular activities to their schedules.
Student groups can be inclusive and valuable spaces within the University. However, there are also problems that can be associated with them. Student-run clubs create independence for their leaders, but they do not always keep leaders in check.
Nepotism, favoritism and corruption are all common issues that arise because of student leadership being handed to the wrong people.
Some complaints have centered around the legacy statuses of students in certain groups. I have witnessed many students sharing feelings of discouragement from joining organizations because they didn’t join their freshman year, and feel they aren’t given a fair chance to be part of the group in the following years.
It is vital for student groups to exist as inclusive and beneficial environments for all those attending the University. The benefits of these groups will only matter if they are truly comfortable for all who wish to join them.
In order to bring an end to these issues, students, especially leaders, need to be held accountable for their actions. One way this could happen is through a deeper check done by the Student Unions and Activities.
SUA ought to have meetings with student groups on a regular basis. For larger groups, the meetings should be more frequent and might be based on number of people, amounts of monetary funds used or frequency of events. In these meetings, an SUA officer should discuss the student group constitutions and ensure that they are written in a justified way. One practice that should be introduced in all student groups is signing off on not displaying favoritism among members.
Some groups may even consider introducing a quota, such as one where identities of leaders need to vary. In some groups, this could lead to the promotion of minorities taking on leadership roles that may have been difficult for them to obtain in the past.
SUA officers should check that group leaders are held accountable. They should sit in on meetings or group events if any members of the group are concerned about unfair treatment.
Another practice that should be adopted by all student groups is the proper introduction of students’ rights. Student groups should make a document available of what their resources are and who they can reach out to if they feel discriminated against.
The student conduct code, which must be adhered to by all student groups, should be shared in the initial meetings of organizations. Students are allowed to file complaints against student groups if they feel the group is violating any of the code's policies. The process for resolving these complaints is currently lengthy and lacks transparency.
The student conduct code has good intentions in trying to hold all students accountable for their actions within these groups, but they could be putting in more effort to ensure these claims are resolved fairly.
Overall, in order for student groups to become increasingly inclusive, it is necessary for rules to be followed. Accountability is vital for these groups to run in the best, most fair, way possible.