Student Union Receives Backlash about New Club Policy
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“The SU did try. I appreciate that they tried to find a list of teachers who could help faculty advise clubs, but I just don’t think that it’s going to be enough.” —Jerry Yang, junior
After a year and a half of online classes, students have been eager to participate in their extracurricular activities in person. Many activities had been altered due to the pandemic. Productions such as SING! moved to a virtual format, while most athletic and competitive clubs had to cancel practices, games, or seasons. As extracurriculars are starting again, the Student Union (SU) emphasized on behalf of the administration the recent reinforcement that all clubs must now have a faculty advisor, prompting backlash from students.
While the Clubs and Pubs Department of the SU is responsible for overseeing the student-led clubs and activities at Stuyvesant, the decision to mandate a faculty advisor for all clubs has been an official rule for New York City public schools for 12 years. According to the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) Chancellor’s Regulation A-601 issued in 2009, all student clubs must have a faculty advisor who is licensed under the DOE to receive a charter.
However, Stuyvesant has not strictly enforced this rule until recently. Because Stuyvesant has more clubs than staff members, certain clubs, especially smaller ones, would not be able to resume if they could not find a faculty advisor.
The SU did not expect all clubs to have a faculty advisor until there was confirmation that there are enough staff members eligible to be an advisor. “While clubs have always been encouraged to have faculty advisors, administration has asked the SU to enforce this rule more strictly,” SU Clubs and Pubs Directors and senior Jennifer Ji and junior Larissa Yue said in an e-mail interview. “We understand that this adjustment is a big one for club leaders, so we will not expect them to list a faculty advisor until we can ensure that there are enough faculty interested in supporting Stuy’s extracurriculars.”
In previous years, clubs could submit a charter on StuyActivities without a faculty advisor. While clubs could still hold meetings for their members, they were not allowed to raise money or invite guest speakers without a faculty advisor. “The primary reason for having faculty advisors work with student leaders is to allow clubs to have a source of reliability, whether that be for planning trips or hosting fundraisers,” Ji and Yue said.
In the past, many clubs forwent seeking a staff member if they did not need to host external events from Stuyvesant. Faculty advisors of clubs are mostly responsible for the legalities and supervision. “These students run these shows, I just sign off on things,” computer science teacher Topher Mykolyk, who is the club faculty advisor of Girls Who Code, Model UN, and the Science Bowl, said in an e-mail interview.
However, the sudden and recent reinforcement of this policy left students concerned with the lack of communication between the SU and the student body. “I’m not necessarily opposed to the policies. I just think that it was snuck up on us [...] I found out about the policies by chance [through a friend],” junior Jerry Yang said. Yang is the founder of Stuyvesant’s Real-Time Strategy Games Club and the Stuyvesant Public Speech and Action Club, both of which are recently established clubs.
Many club leaders were also not contacted by the SU and instead found out about the new policy when rechartering their club. “There was an option that said you had to have a faculty advisor by October, but I probably would not have known that if I didn’t resubmit the charter,” sophomore and UpStuyCycle President Olivia Woo said.
One student also unintentionally discovered the reinforcement of the faculty advisor policy through GitHub, a software development program used amongst the SU. “I was made aware of the changes on StuyActivities on GitHub, [which gives you] a list of changes and one of the changes was the rule about faculty advisors,” senior and Stuyvesant Robotics President Sam Belliveau said.
Senior Ethan Brovender, who also found out about the policies through a friend, felt that it is the SU’s responsibility to inform all students of any changes. “The least they could do is [...] talk to club members. It’s not [only] small little groups that are upset—even clubs that do have faculty advisors, they’re upset about [the lack of transparency] too, because seriously, they’re not even communicating to Robotics, which I assume, a lot of other major clubs,” he said. “They’re just pushing stuff out without talking to us.” Brovender formerly led the Stuyvesant Minecraft Coalition and is also a co-leader of Stuy DnD. He is currently waiting for his charter for a new digital animation production club to be approved.
The Clubs and Pubs Department claimed to have shared tentative updates with returning club leaders only rather than all Stuyvesant students due to uncertainty surrounding school reopening, which may have contributed to the miscommunication. “Once we were ready to share preliminary updates, we reached out to returning club leaders and members and received feedback surrounding our plans. Since receiving feedback, we have amended our expectations for clubs,” Ji and Yue said.
Students hoping to create new clubs this year, on the other hand, voiced that it was essential for the SU to tell everyone, not just returning club leaders. “There needs to be a bit more involvement between us and the administration. Where’s the student input? I don’t see it,” Yang said.
To support the clubs, the Clubs and Pubs Department stated that they would create a list of possible faculty advisors for student organizations to reach out to. “We are currently working with administrators to gather faculty interest and set explicit expectations for these advisors,” Ji and Yue said.
Despite this, Yang felt that the SU did not do enough to provide every club with a faculty advisor. “The SU did try. I appreciate that they tried to find a list of teachers who could help faculty advise clubs, but I just don’t think that it’s going to be enough,” he said. Yang later shared that the SU did not share a list of possible advisors.
After significant criticism, the SU sent out an e-mail through StuyActivities to all club leaders on September 22. It stated that after discussion with the SU, Principal Seung Yu has decided to lift the faculty advisor mandate for clubs hosting meetings before 5 p.m. in-person and 8 p.m. virtually during the week.
From September 27 to October 1, a faculty advisor must be present during official club meetings since there is not enough security currently present in the building after school hours. Clubs must still have a faculty advisor if they plan to host meetings outside of Stuyvesant or at a later time, or host events, such as fundraisers, lectures, and trips.
Despite the repeal of these policies, many still feel it is important that future students will not be encumbered by the faculty advisor policy to create clubs that nurture their own interests. “I just feel concerned that kids in the future won’t be able to [start their own clubs],” Brovender said. “My sister wants to go to Stuy, and maybe if these rules are there, she’ll have a harder time doing what she wants at school and having fun.”