Several members of clubs on campus are worried their charters will not be renewed because Cal Poly Student Life and Leadership have labeled them “high risk.”
Of the 250 clubs on campus, 16 clubs’ charters remain in question because they were considered too dangerous because they involve open bodies of water, horses or motorized vehicles, said Stephan Lamb, associate director of Student Life and Leadership.
“This is all about student safety and not about the value of the activity,” Lamb said.
Student Life and Leadership director Everette Brooks said the risk and safety evaluations began in 2006 after the clubs were handed over from Associated Students Inc. to Student Life and Leadership for oversight.
The motion came in response to the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office releasing Executive Order 969 in 2006. The order was a set of outlined policies and procedures to be enforced by clubs on CSU campuses. Included in the rules was a review of all club activities, advisers and goals to be conducted by Student Life and Leadership.
The clubs began to evaluate whether they were under the advisement of the most qualified person, Brooks said. Some clubs were put in the category of Instructionally Related Activities (IRAs), which meant they were given to specific college departments to manage, and others were asked to obtain insurance.
He added that often the adviser’s expertise overrides insurance coverage, and as an advocate for students, he wants to make sure the students remain safe.
“Management of the activity and the skill level of the people involved supersede the insurance. The insurance is if you do everything right and you’re covered to cover your bases,” Brooks said.
Penguins Motorcycle Club, established in 1947, and Poly Goats, created in 1966, are two of the clubs waiting for their charters to be approved.
Since being notified in fall 2009 that Cal Poly did not want to be liable for any accidents, Penguins’ vice president Alan Cook said that, like other clubs, the Penguins received insurance and have filled out the necessary paperwork to have their chartered renewed. Now, after almost seven months of waiting, he said he hasn’t had any signs from administrators about whether his charter will be renewed.
“I am kind of in the dark for what is going over there,” Cook said. “Every time we do what they say, we don’t get anything back. It’s just really confusing.”
Cook said the Penguins has not had any injuries for the past four years; it wasn’t until last year when two club members performed wheelies during the Open House parade that the club was labeled “high risk.” He said the trick upset police who said the members were putting those in the crowd at risk.
“I honestly think it is someone who hears a motorcycle and thinks it’s dangerous, but everyone has gloves and helmets,” Cook said.
Cook said for the past 60 years, the club had never had insurance because about 70 percent of its members have dirt bikes, which by law do not require insurance.
To have their charters renewed, members of the Penguins and the Poly Goats went to the California Off-Road Association, a decision Brooks said was necessary to ensure safety.
Lamb said the university’s insurance has a $250,000 deductible per incident; when a college accepts a club into its portfolio, the college assumes responsibility for a potential lawsuit. When clubs hold activities off campus, a special $350 deductible is taken out for the event.
“We are trying to minimize our vulnerability because of the budget. We aren’t even that big,” Lamb said.
Brooks said he was unsure of when a decision would be made about the Poly Goats’ and Penguins’ charters.
Members of the Penguins and Poly Goats said they are eager to get a response because Open House weekend, April 15 to 18, is when they recruit most of their new members.
“It’s going to be hard to get new members, but obviously we will still be around,” Maher said. “I don’t think Everette and Lamb understand that there are a lot of alumni who are really passionate and will be upset. So if it doesn’t work out, for lack of words, the shit will hit the fan.”