For the first time in at least 18 years, the Student Government Association (SGA) denied official status to a club when it voted down Tau Beta Sigma (TBS) last week. The club’s failure, the first in the memory of anyone now at the College, raised questions about why it was voted down and about the unconstitutional methods used in the denial of the club.
According to Tim Asher, associate director of Student Activities, a club has not been denied during his entire career at the College, which has spanned 18 years.
“We’re making history,” Daria Silvestro, spokeswoman for TBS, said.
TBS was formed “as a way to help alleviate stress from those students (who) would otherwise work themselves to death,” Chris Rindosh, application review chair of TBS, said in a speech before SGA. As a social organization that is not affiliated with Greek organizations, TBS is “a group of students (who) look out for each other and like to make people feel better,” Rindosh said.
The group was formed early last year when a few students began to help each other relax and alleviate stress. They began to make “frequent trips to local organizations such as Taco Bell for stress relief,” Matt Pihoker, a member of TBS, said. Today they still meet frequently, coming together when one of the members is in need. “This has been a lifesaver in a lot of stressful times,” Silvestro said.
TBS applied for official club status this year because “we really just wanted to be recognized for what we do for the College,” Rindosh said.
TBS was met with resistance by SGA when it presented its case last week. Only one person voted in favor of the club.
“Some of the Senate members did not like that Greek letters were used as the name of the club,” Christine Cullen, SGA executive president, said in an e-mail interview. “Some found it offensive to the Greek organizations on campus.”
“In my opinion TBS got rejected due to its lack of a true purpose.” Gabe Alonso, senior class treasurer, said.
Using the name “‘Tau Beta Sigma’ is a means of preserving our confidentiality. It has nothing to do with Greek organizations,” Arun Gurunathan, director of human resources for TBS, said in an interview. TBS members were very careful with what they revealed, underlining their commitment to secrecy and confidentiality. They even came to the interview wearing all black suits and matching reflective sunglasses, despite the meeting being indoors and at night.
“We have to maintain a level of mystery,” Silvestro said. “(SGA) used the confusion that they felt” to deny the club.
In Cullen’s e-mail, she said “some of the senate members could not understand” why TBS wanted to be approved, and that “many of the senate (members) thought the name was misleading.”
Silvestro said in the meeting that SGA should consider “whether or not (a proposed club) duplicates a purpose and meets a need on campus, not whether or not we like the name.”
“We can appreciate that the Greek community would be concerned about being held responsible for any indiscretions of organizations with Greek letters that are not affiliated with (Inter-Greek Council),” Silvestro said.
More exact reasoning for the denial of TBS cannot be obtained because the club’s creation was debated in total closed session, which required SGA to suspend its own by-laws. SGA also suspended its by-laws in order to vote on the club with members of TBS not present. One member of SGA asked, “Can we vote in closed session so our friends can’t see how we vote?”
SGA also held a second re-vote with the members of TBS present, after criticism for having broken the rules the first time around.
Despite these proceedings, Silvestro said, “I don’t hold a grudge against SGA.” Rindosh added that the members of TBS “have no intention to undermine Greek organizations.”
There was a suggestion that TBS change its name and reapply, but the members of TBS announced in an interview that they would not reapply for official status. They felt that the name was important to the organization.
The application process to join TBS also came under scrutiny.
“The application process involves a formal application, an essay, a formal interview and a final examination of the TBS purpose and objectives,” Rindosh said. The process had taken some members as much as 12 hours to complete, he said.
“We want to weed out people who wouldn’t care (about TBS),” Shawn Silverstein, TBS chief executive officer, said.
Because TBS was denied official status, the Facebook.com Web site for the group is the only way of acknowledging group members.
“I’d never thought I’d be so proud to be joining a Facebook group,” Pihoker, who completed the application process last year, said.
Because the group was denied, TBS cannot use traditional methods like fliers and chalk to recruit new members. Therefore, if anyone is interested in the club, Rindosh said, “you’ll have to Facebook-stalk the members to join.”