News | Student Life

Barnard funding for sororities, but not recognition

Though Barnard’s Student Government Association has yet to formally recognize Greek organizations on campus, it continues to financially support its students’ participation in them.

Some members of Funding at Columbia University (F@CU) have argued that the money they contribute as councils that officially recognize Greek life, shouldn’t go to supporting Barnard’s participation in Greek life if they don’t recognize it, though the SGA continues to give the Panhellenic Council money to support its student participation.

F@CU is a board made up of the incoming and outgoing presidents and vice presidents of funding from General Studies Student Council, Engineering Student Council, Columbia College Student Council, and SGA, and holds a summit at the end of each year to allocate funding to student groups.

Sharmin Ahmed, BC ’10 and SGA vice president of finance, said that Barnard’s council “gave a contribution to Panhell [Panhellenic Council] specifically because they have been active in saying they have Barnard students” who participate in the organization and are part of the executive board.

For the past two years, SGA has contributed $1,000—which, according to Ahmed, is more than SGA would have owed proportionally had they been contributing as a council that officially recognizes Greek organizations. “We just give a flat-out amount of $1,000 because that’s the amount comparable to what we should give. A thousand is an arbitrary number, it’s a number that the F@CU committee decided long before. … We’ve stuck by $1,000 and we stuck by it because we didn’t want to contribute in ratio because that would be making the statement that we recognize Greek life and we didn’t think that that is a statement we could make. It was an arbitrary number but it was comparable to what we should have contributed—sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less, and last year it was more,” Ahmed explained.

The Panhellenic Council has been granted “stage one” recognition at Barnard—which includes the ability for sororities in the council to flyer, reserve space, hang banners in Barnard Hall, and get an adviser.

What the sororities are missing is “stage two” recognition, without which they cannot apply for allocations for the academic year. Most other Barnard groups have “stage two” recognition. Any group, however, can apply for co-sponsorship with SGA regardless of whether or not it is recognized by the council.

Despite the fact that Barnard has contributed and continues to contribute money to the Panhellenic Council, the InterGreek Council feels that recognition is a critical part of the equation. In a recent statement addressed to the presidents of the four undergraduate councils, the IGC wrote, “Should IGC be unsuccessful again in gaining stage one recognition and should Panhell be unsuccessful in gaining funding through stage two recognition from SGA in the future, we will be forced to take additional steps which may include the total restriction of Barnard students from involvement in Greek Life.”

What is problematic, some say, is not the amount of money contributed, but the fact that the money isn’t accompanied by recognition—which, CCSC President Sue Yang, CC ’10, said, would calculate the amount owed by considering factors such as sorority growth and participation. “Right now, the $1,000 is an arbitrary number, it’s not based on anything—if they’re recognized it would be grounded by factors taken into consideration, like future growth versus a number that’s made up.”

According to Nuriel Moghavem, CC ’11 and the vice president of finance for CCSC, the relationship between councils and student life activities can be complicated. For example, he said that though General Studies students participate in club sports, the GSSC does not pay into this activity.

SGA is continuing to look into Greek life recognition, which was recently struck down in a relatively close vote by the council. The council’s constitution currently directs against funding clubs that select members on a discriminatory basis, as well as clubs that collect payments like sorority dues, which may also be restrictive to some students. According to SGA president Katie Palillo, BC ’10, “At our last meeting we voted to continue to explore the issue, which had two components—one was to hold sorority focus groups before our last meeting [Monday night].”

At the meeting Monday night, vice president of communications Giselle Leon, BC ’10, said that 65 students applied to be a part of a focus group exploring thoughts on sororities among Barnard students.

Leon said she wrote a letter urging against a cap on Barnard participation on sororities, saying that it would be an unnecessarily divisive move. Leon added that information that would come out of the focus groups and a potential student body survey next year could serve as a jumping-off point for further consideration in the fall semester.

Palillo acknowledges that though the issue is complicated, SGA wants to support Barnard students. “I think that SGA very clearly acknowledges that there’s a demonstrated interest in our campus and in being able to have students sustain that interest—and communities that Barnard students have become leaders in. That’s a huge component of that discussion, and we want to show that they have our support in whatever they choose to participate in,” Palillo said.

Amanda Evans contributed reporting.
elizabeth.scott@columbiaspectator.com

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