Twelve new clubs launched this semester, with the Council of Advisory Boards approving fewer than 50 percent of the 34 student groups that applied this semester for university recognition.
The clubs, including the Hong Kong Student Association, Lebanese Student Association and Hoya Teahouse, join over 300 student groups on campus. These groups now enter into the new club development process, which provides them with a budget, and the ability to use the Georgetown name and to book physical space on campus.
In previous semesters, the application process was similarly competitive. Of the 26 applicants last spring, only 11 were accepted. Last fall, 29 clubs applied and 16 were accepted.
In order to apply for recognition as a new student organization, members must attend one of three information sessions offered by the Council of Advisory Boards.
According to Council of Advisory Boards Chair Janhvi Bhojwani (SFS ’18), CAB’s application review process is extensive. There are three possible outcomes after a weekend of application review. The applicant can be approved, rejected or receive a request for a presentation.
Bhojwani said a presentation is simply CAB requesting more information, meaning the applicant will meet with CAB leadership to discuss their organization or address any questions.
Groups that are rejected can also appeal the decision to CAB.
Despite existing for more than a year and a half, raising thousands of dollars and having plans to expand to 10 different college campuses by the end of the month, Unsung Heroes lacks the status necessary to be officially recognized by Georgetown University.
The initiative was denied recognition by CAB, even after a subsequent appeal. Febin Bellamy (MSB ’17), who founded Unsung Heroes in Spring 2015 to highlight the stories and voices of Georgetown employees, has found himself featured in The Washington Post, CNN and NBC News for his efforts.
Bellamy said he had hoped to get club status to facilitate the creation of chapters in other universities across the country.
“We want to do this because that is how we can create chapters, but also because it allows us to get funding and to have access to other benefits on campus,” Bellamy said. “It also allows to create a longer lasting impression on the campus.”
One of the recently accepted groups, the Hong Kong Student Association, had to go through the appeal process not once, but twice.
Hong Kong Student Association founder Joanne Lai (MSB ’19) said the club had to thoroughly convince CAB that they would cater to enough of the student population on campus.
“They were concerned there was not a large enough audience, and the sustainability of our club, so we had really had to show that there is a lot of interest about Hong Kong on campus,” Lai said. “We showed them that there is a good amount of people from the Hong Kong area, and the MSB program in Hong Kong has almost doubled in size over the past three years.”
When the Lebanese Student Association applied to become a new club, Co-President Tala Anchassi (SFS ’18) said they had to highlight that no current student group was catering to their needs.
“There is another cultural club that might represent the Arab culture, but we saw that the way the university academics is set up, it really fosters this stereotypical view of the Middle East,” Anchassi said. “You don’t really see the differences of cultures broken down, so because of that we really wanted to break this view and provide our interest and perspective to the people who are interested.”
Bhojwani said duplicity is the main obstacle new groups often face when trying to become officially recognized by the university.
“As a school that already has many different organizations, oftentimes we have clubs that are already doing whatever a new student is trying to propose — maybe not in the same scale or structure that the student is proposing, but it already exists on campus,” Bhojwani said. “We are unable to accept these groups into the new club development process because these spaces already exist and are active on campus.”
Co-President of LSA Layla Najjar (SFS ’18) said the process of creating a new student club is more complex and involved than the group originally thought.
“It was much more of a bureaucratic process than we thought,” Najjar said. “Georgetown is very much initially open to having you start your organizations, but you really have to work for it.”
Hoya Teahouse Founder Alison Hsu (MSB ’19) said the purpose of the club is to bring students from different cultures together through a shared appreciation of tea.
“I came to Georgetown as an international student expecting there to be a really diverse student body, and after coming here I saw all the presence of student cultural groups, but I didn’t really see a platform for all of the students from different cultural backgrounds to interact with each other,” Hsu said. “My vision is to have people interact with each other through tea. It is something that every culture shares, but ended up being developed into a very different culture in each culture’s perspective.”
To showcase international cultures and traditions, Hsu said Hoya Teahouse plans to host traditional tea performances in the future.
“We are planning to have our first tea performance in April. Just like a dance performance where people dance and show the move, tea performance is where people pour tea and show the move too,” Hsu said. “It is combination of tea-ism and zen: basically letting go of a lot unnecessary trouble, a lot of doubt in your life, but you are focusing on that cup of tea and drinking it.”
While this semester will conclude with Unsung Heroes still lacking the official recognition that provides clubs with funding to operate, Bellamy said rejection has not prevented Unsung Heroes from thriving on campus.
“It doesn’t really inhibit us from doing anything on campus, because we have never been in a club on campus until now — it has always been a student initiative,” Bellamy said “It is huge to have that recognition on campus, but we have been fortunate enough to be able to operate without it.”
Correction: This article previously stated the Student Activities Commission is responsible for recognizing new clubs; the Council of Advisory Boards is responsible for this.