By Connor Smith
Social Media Editor
The process of getting an organization recognized by Student Government (SG) is meant to be simple. If you’re passionate about something that isn’t represented by one of the 200 or more clubs at the College, then it’s up to you to make your dream organization a reality — a pitch that ambassadors love to share with prospective students, according to ambassador and freshman nursing major Daniel Suarez.
TCNJ Ski and Snowboard Club President and freshman biomedical engineering major Kyle Skelly had that same goal when he discovered the College was lacking a club for winter alpine sports.
“(Ambassadors) were telling us how easy it was to make a club,” Skelly said. “I couldn’t picture myself going to a college and going through a winter session without the ability to ski, snowboard and do the thing that takes a lot of stress away. I figured I might as well take a shot at making my own.”
SG recently awarded recognition to two organizations — Skelly’s TCNJ Ski and Snowboard club and the TCNJ Political Union — during its Wednesday, April 20, general body meeting.
For TCNJ Political Union, the board’s decision was the end of a satisfying process that helped the club grow its purpose and ideals. However, for TCNJ Ski and Snowboard Club, recognition was the last stop at the end of a year-long marathon for acceptance. “We strive to get people to the last step of the process within three weeks,” SG Governmental Affairs (GA) Vice President and junior urban early childhood education and English double major Ceili Boles said. “It doesn’t always happen that way.”
That goal was met for the new TCNJ Political Union, according to the club’s President and senior history and urban studies double major Sam Fogelgaren.
“We were offered a date within 72 hours of when I contacted the constitutional review chair,” Fogelgaren said. “When we were approved, it took about two weeks until we were approved in front of the full executive board. It was pretty quick. Two and a half weeks is a reasonable amount of time.”
As for TCNJ Ski and Snowboard Club, which began when Skelly created a Facebook group for prospective members last summer, the process was elongated by the club’s athletic and liability components, according to Boles.
“They didn’t really tell us all the different hoops we’d have to jump through,” TCNJ Ski and Snowboard Club Treasurer and freshman communications major Kiersten Newkirk said. “It took many more steps than anticipated. We’re not even done figuring out where we fall under the insurance policy.”
According to Newkirk, the group held successful interest sessions and were optimistic that the process would be completed before the winter season. The club’s founders were sent to Director of Recreation Rob Simels, who forwarded them to an insurance representative.
“It was all very disjointed and disorganized,” TCNJ Ski and Snowboard Club Secretary and freshman music education major Marshall Samuels said. “(Simels) told us to get in contact with the insurance people. I couldn’t get a hold of them for two weeks because the representative was in another country. When she eventually came back, she told us we couldn’t even meet with her until we met with (Simels) first, even though we had already met with him. It was all a lack of communication. It’s just unorganized, but we’re trying to make it work.”
This isn’t the first time a club was frustrated with SG’s recognition process.
“We faced issues with the Student Government. They failed us probably three times over the course of a year,” Competitive Gaming Club’s (CGC) former Vice President and senior accounting major Martin Faynor said in a Signal article from Tuesday, February 16.
According to the same Signal article, the CGC re-submitted paperwork for months before finally being awarded recognition.
“They had to get narrower and narrower with the club idea,” former CGC Historian and senior interactive multimedia major Jon Sofo said. “Each time they were reviewed, it was tedious. They had to wait a certain number of weeks after fixing a single thing.”
While the CGC organized events on its own accord, the TCNJ Ski and Snowboard Club was forced to sit back and watch as the winter season melted away.
“I’ve heard from other clubs that there are issues with responding to emails promptly and things like that,” Newkirk said. “For things that are time-sensitive — we wanted to have our club ready before the season — that causes problems.”
Although not officially recognized by SG, the club made an attempt to bring some of its more than 100 Facebook members together for a trip to the Poconos Mountains on Saturday, Jan. 30. Much like the group’s attempts to find answers for their insurance, the event fell through when the Office of Recreation failed to get the proper paperwork approved, according to Newkirk.
Despite their disappointment with the process, the group members persevered and held meetings throughout the semester. According to Skelly, he refused to let the long months get to him.
“This is gonna be where you’re spending the next four years of your life,” Skelly said. “If you really want a club that you can’t see yourself going four years without, take the initiative (to create it). It may be hard at first, but in the long-run, it’s gonna pay off. You’re going to meet a lot of people that have similar interests as you.”
Nearly a year after Skelly first discovered the College was lacking a ski and snowboard club, he found himself standing before SG with his tightly-knit executive board colleagues by his side. When the meeting was all said and done, their club was fully recognized and ready to plan for the upcoming winter season.
According to Samuels, the process would have been easier if they weren’t all incoming freshmen last summer.
“As an incoming freshman, it’s definitely a lot harder because you don’t know your way around campus, and you don’t know all the people that work at TCNJ,” he said. “Get the constitution done in the summer. You can go right into it in the fall and as an incoming freshman, you’re not going to get it done immediately.”
In regards to improving the process, the group said the College should establish a chair for non-competitive athletic clubs.
“We found it kind of odd because there’s several other clubs that need to be under the insurance policy, but aren’t competitive, like Aikido,” Newkirk said. “TCNJ doesn’t have a precedent for anything like that… It makes students really have to go out of their way to get things done in a timely manner.”
Both the TCNJ Ski and Snowboard Club and the TCNJ Political Union have events planned for the upcoming semester and can be found by name on Facebook. Although their purposes are different, both clubs aim to bring something new to the College’s community.
“We’re looking to consistently address political issues throughout the semester,” Fogelgaren said. “We want to sustain political engagement on campus.”
For Skelly, his club’s newfound recognition is a validation of the group’s passionate efforts.
“It’s hard, but you all work through it together to overcome the obstacles,” Skelly said. “It was a challenge and a bit of a pain, but we’re trying to do it because it’s something we love.”