October for most Cal Poly students means Halloween costumes, candy, midterms and jack-o’-lanterns. For Cal Poly clubs, though, October is also the month to renew their charters with Student Life and Leadership (SLL), and secure them school support and funding for the next year.
Each Cal Poly-affiliated club must submit a charter for approval to maintain its status. If SLL identifies a club with high-liability risk, the club is told it needs to improve its risk management plan, and its Cal Poly club status is withheld until these terms are satisfactorily met, SLL director Stephan Lamb said.
Though clubs may not have their club status approved immediately, that does not mean they lose their affiliation with Cal Poly completely, Lamb said.
“There’s some groups that we’re asking additional questions about,” Lamb said.
In addition to questions, these clubs must adjust operations to avoid possible liability risks, Lamb said. SLL takes the month of October to reexamine Cal Poly’s clubs and address any safety concerns, Lamb said.
This system has been in place since 2006, when SLL received management of the clubs from Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), and began organizing how clubs are managed, Lamb said.
SLL keeps the club profiles and is in charge of renewing charters, while ASI provides services such as funding and insurance coverage to the clubs approved by SLL.
“I’d say it’s been an ongoing process since 2006,” Lamb said.
This process includes changing the status of certain clubs that are perceived as too dangerous to be officially affiliated with Cal Poly and thus do not qualify for ASI insurance, Poly Goats president and manufacturing engineering junior Riley Casey said.
The Poly Goats, an off-roading group, were one such Cal Poly club that was determined to be too risky for ASI insurance coverage in 2010, Casey said.
“The reasoning was that we were deemed to be too high risk to be covered under ASI insurance,” Casey said.
SLL’s solution was to change the Poly Goats’ status from a club to an independent student organization, or ISO, similar to a fraternity or sorority. ISO’s are not covered under ASI’s insurance, do not receive club funding from ASI and do not have an on-campus bank account.
Instead, funds are kept in an off-campus bank account, and ISO’s have more freedom in determining group events and can manage finances without reporting them to the school, Lamb said.
For the Poly Goats, the switch from club to ISO wasn’t a huge change, Casey said. The group became a club associated with the California Off-Road Vehicle Association, obtained insurance and raised dues to make up for lost ASI funding, but activities remained the same, Casey said.
“Most of what we do is off campus so it didn’t really affect us,” Casey said, describing the Poly Goats’ reaction as “ambivalent.”
Casey’s only concern is that, with SLL managing the clubs and ASI handling issues such as funding, renewing even ISO charters can be confusing, he said.
While renewing the Poly Goats’ charter this fall, Casey had difficulty finding the correct person to handle his group’s profile, he said.
He first went to the University Union Epicenter to turn in forms, which were denied, he said. Finally, he found Everette Brooks, SLL coordinator of clubs and organizations, who walked Casey through the process of approving the Poly Goats’ ISO status for 2013.
But without an experienced club officer to point the way, the task of renewing the Poly Goats’ charter was frustrating, Casey said.
“Cal Poly clubs have a lot of turn-over with their officers, so there’s not always old people to talk to (who) know where to go,” Casey said.
And the Poly Goats are not the only ones frustrated with the system.
General engineering senior and former Cal Poly Scuba Club president Dayton Pickering was also unhappy with SLL’s handling of charters, she said.
The Scuba Club, which holds diving trips, was told its club was too risky to renew its charter, Pickering said.
“(The SLL representative) basically told us that they weren’t going to approve our charter since we were holding events that were considered dangerous, and they didn’t want the liability,” Pickering said.
Pickering understands the liability issues, she said, but the Scuba Club is currently in limbo between being a Cal Poly club and just a group of students who like to go diving together.
But despite the fact that the Scuba Club charter was denied, the group still has a chance to be renew its Cal Poly club status, Lamb said.
“We haven’t closed the door on any group that was chartered last year,” Lamb said.