*Updated 4:46 p.m. Nov. 8*
When International Relations Club leadership sent an email to its members list on Oct. 18 to market an upcoming event, it didn’t expect a swift reprisal by the Student Activities Commission. The IRC was notified two days after the Oct. 23 event, “International Night Out,” that the plug had put its mass email privileges in jeopardy.
Placed on Access to Benefits Review, the IRC – one of the largest student groups on campus – is barred from using its email list until Nov. 19. The IRC will regain access as long as three members of the IRC board complete leadership training. As of today, the IRC has regained access to its emailing privileges.
The 18-and-over, 21-to-drink event was referred to in a weekly update as an “IRC Club Night with [International Student Association].” SAC clamped down on the marketing push, calling it an improper use of the Georgetown name and a liability to the school because it was not SAC-approved.
“International Night Out” took place at dance club Cafe Asia on I Street and included two bars and a dance floor, according to the event’s Facebook page.
“Members of the International Relations Club and the International Student Association wanted to have a night out for international students and internationally-minded students to enjoy music, dance, and inter-cultural exchange,” IRC chair Eitan Paul (SFS ’12) said.
Club leaders said they did not think SAC approval was necessary to promote the event, as it was not officially sponsored by the IRC or the International Student Association, both of which are under the purview of SAC.
SAC became aware of the event when some of its commissioners saw tickets being sold and fliers posted around campus promoting the event under the IRC name and logo.
“The use of a group’s name, logo and listserv is a benefit given by the university to its student groups and must be used appropriately. The IRC used its listserv to promote an event that was not approved by SAC and not in compliance with university policy and mission,” SAC commissioner Ruiyong Chen (SFS ’13) said. “By using its name, even in the form of `friends of IRC,’ IRC created a perception that the event was hosted by IRC and exposed the university to a great deal of risk should anything have occurred at the event.”
The IRC clarified the issue with its members as well.
“On behalf of the IRC Board of Directors, I apologize for this error and take responsibility for the liability placed upon individuals by the initial perception that the event was being co-sponsored by the IRC,” Paul wrote in an Oct. 29 mass email to the IRC.
Paul later clarified that the IRC treasurer had communicated with a SAC Commissioner throughout the period of time during which the event was being marketed.
“We were not made aware that our marketing of the event could result in the club being placed under Access to Benefits,” Paul said.
Paul and two other IRC members attended a budget card management session with the Center for Student Programs on Tuesday, satisfying a SAC requirement mandating some members to attend a leadership event in order for IRC to regain access to its listserv.
The restrictions on email promotional blasts are not new from SAC. On Tuesday, the European Club sent an email to its members explaining that it had breached SAC policy and abused its access to benefits for using “friends of the European Club” in advertising for an Oct. 21 event called Puro Cafe.
In February 2009, the IRC was sanctioned for sending an email out through its listserv that included “inappropriate and offensive content with implications of a number of policy violations,” according to Chen.
Last April, the Chinese Student Alliance was sanctioned for having an unapproved party in an on-campus apartment, which was promoted using the CSA listserv and was in violation of the university’s alcohol policy.
This year, SAC is shifting toward a bulk-allocation policy, as the result of a student group survey conducted last year. This gives groups more control over their budgets but also asks that they hold themselves more accountable to compliance with university policy, Chen said.
SAC is not cracking down on restrictions, she added, but instead is reacting to an increase of inadvertent, and sometimes intentional, illegal promotion.
“When one club gives the perception of hosting a legitimate, approved event (such as by labeling the hosts as “friends of” a particular club), it gives the impression that the club is involved in the event, which leads to other clubs interpreting what they are doing as appropriate and something they themselves can also do, even when that is not the case,” Chen said.”