Horizon guide: Starting a student organization

Hannah Foreman, Staff Reporter

As a new student on campus or one that has been at IU Southeast for a while, one may find themselves wondering how to get involved and meet new people.

According to the IUS website, there are multiple options, including Greek life, the Student Government Association and many academic, athletic, or special groups that students can join. Also, a student may choose to create a club or organization.

Ashley Kern, English writing senior and student liaison for Campus Life, started out as a receptionist during her first year at IU Southeast. When the position opened up during her sophomore year, she applied and has been a student liaison since.

Part of Kern’s job is to provide students interested in creating a new organization with the Intent to Organize packet, which she said provides them with information about how to get started and guidelines to follow.

The packet also includes: the criteria for membership of student groups, information on deciding what type of leadership will be used for the group, an organizational profile, organizational goal setting, how to write a constitution and bylaws and samples of each, how to run effective meetings, how to write effective minutes, information of recruiting and orienting new members, a leadership development plan, an advising role survey and an advising agreement.

To form a new organization, a minimum of five students who are also interested in the topic of which the organization will be focused will be needed.

Students forming a new organization should talk to full-time faculty or staff who might be interested in being the adviser of the group.

If there are any issues with finding an adviser, the Campus Life staff can assist in finding a good match.

An adviser has three main functions in the group: act as a consultant to help with the organization’s growth and development, add to the community or organization, and help in the area or program content and purpose.

Next, the students need to meet with Channell Barbour, associate director of Campus Life and coordinator of student activities, to talk about what ideas they have for their organization. The coordinator will provide them with some important information. The students will also be able to hold an interest meeting with the coordinator, where they will answer any questions the group may have.

The organizational profile in the Intent to Organize packet asks questions such as ‘What is the purpose? What are the goals? What benefits are offered to members?’ These questions help students figure out what the organization will be all about.

A constitution is needed in the creation of a new organization because it will help to clarify the purpose of the group and provide the foundation for building an effective organization.

It will also allow both potential and current members gain a better understanding of what the group is about and how it functions.

Bylaws are another part of creating a group because they explain in detail the procedures that must be followed to conduct business in an orderly manner. They will provide further definition to the articles of the constitution and can be changed if necessary to reflect the changing needs of the organization.

The bylaws usually contain specific information on topics such as membership, dues, officer duties, executive board, committees, order of business, parliamentary authority, amendment procedures and other specific policies and procedures unique to the organization that are necessary for its operation.

A few rules for writing bylaws include knowing the group, not putting everything in the bylaws, avoiding contradictions and omissions, having realistic expectations, helping the successors and not forgetting the importance of spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Another vital part to any organization is its members. It can be very easy to gain members, but they can be lost just as easily.

The general membership cycle involves new, current, and graduating members. It is ideal for a group to begin the year by recruiting new members to help replace the ones who have graduated or left the organization. This allows several months in order to orient new members and develop new leadership to sustain the group.

Kern said her favorite part of her job is that she gets to see the different ideas that people come up with, and she gets to be a part of helping those organizations have a presence on campus.

When all of the required steps have been completed to form the organization, a member of the organization will turn in a roster of the members, the constitution and bylaws, and all other information included in the information packet.

Barbour said it’s not difficult to get a new organization approved.

“All you have to do is follow the rules and do your paperwork,” she said. “The only times I haven’t approved an organization is because there were already similar groups on campus or the paperwork wasn’t completed.”

The Campus Life office will then process all of the necessary forms and provide $50 of seed money. When organizations become officially registered, they can apply for office space in the Student Involvement Center in University Center South, reserve rooms on campus and publicize and hold events.

IU Southeast has seen 10 new organizations created within the last year, the newest being the Geology Club and Christian Ministry International (CMI). Organizations still in the process of becoming official are the Roller Coaster Club and the Jewish Club.

For more information, visit the Campus Life office in University Center South, room 010, or go to ius.edu and search “Get Involved.”