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LETTER: First-semester students should be allowed to start organizations

To the Editor:

A few weeks ago, Rutgers hosted its student involvement fair. Many organizations were present, covering a wide variety of interests. This is a great event for first-years who are looking to get involved or find others with similar interests at Rutgers. But what if the organization of your dreams does not yet exist? Well, you can start it, right?

The policy is not so clear. The Rutgers guide for new student organizations states that you must have three officers who meet the following requirements: “Must be full-time undergraduate students registered at Rutgers University–New Brunswick/Piscataway Campus” and “Must have a minimum GPA of 2.0.” The guide does not mention anything specifically about first-years who may be interested in serving as an officer in order to start an organization, but the minimum GPA requirement proposes a barrier. Can one serve as an officer and register a new organization if she/he does not yet have an official GPA? According to a representative from the Department of Student Involvement, the answer is no.

For the Department, the reason does not seem to have much to do with GPA. Instead, as the representative told me, we cannot be sure that first-semester first-years will be able to handle a leadership position — after all, they are now living and adjusting to a completely new environment. The University does not prevent first-years from holding jobs on campus, but first-year athletes are not barred from putting long hours into practice and competition. Even first-year graduate students, who similarly find themselves in a new and stressful environment, are thrust into teaching positions, even though many of them have no teaching experience.

This policy is a shame for the collegiate first-years who are looking to create an outlet of expression for themselves and others on campus. Given the potential pressure and stress of being a first-semester student, it is important that they are granted the possibility to create a safe space in which they and others with similar interests can thrive and provide a support network for each other.

This year, Rutgers is celebrating its 250th “revolutionary” anniversary. But for freshmen looking to make an immediate impact on campus, the revolution may have to wait.

Brian Tholl is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Italian.

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