Too many clubs on campus makes for inefficient spending

The remnants of one club's lunchtime meeting stack up. (John Kruger/TommieMedia)
The remnants of one club's lunchtime meeting stack up. (John Kruger/TommieMedia)

College students are pressed for cash, especially near the end of the semester. But if you’re running low on meals, just stroll through O’Shaughnessy Educational Center during convocation hour and pick up some pizza from a club meeting. After all, you’re paying for it.

Student activity fees from your pocket go to the Undergraduate Student Government and are then allocated to the 130 clubs and organizations on campus. So, how do you feel paying for someone else’s board game night, ping-pong tournament or fishing weekend?

Student activity fees are going up. This school year, the fee was $102 per semester ($51 for part-time students). Next year, the fee will be $105.50 per semester for full-time students. It’s a slight increase, but it adds up quickly, especially with tuition and housing increases. And it’s important that the roughly $181,000 given to clubs and organizations this past year only goes to clubs that deserve the money.

I find it unsettling how many clubs are on campus relative to membership. To start a club, you only need 10 people and a faculty advisor. You must hold at least three meetings and each member must complete 1.5 service hours. You have to fill out a form and submit it to Student Life. Then it goes to Campus Life and, finally, gets approved by USG. Then you’re in.

With an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,100 students, you only need 10 people to start a club. That’s only a little more than 0.1 percent of the undergraduate population, but that small percentage of students can receive a maximum of $750 to fund the club’s first year. That’s a lot of money for a small number of students.

Regulating clubs

Clubs and organizations are supposed to benefit the larger community and have a purpose that fits St. Thomas’ mission statement and vision. But some club descriptions only seem loosely connected to the mission statement.

The Table Top Gaming Club’s mission, for example, is, “to engage students of UST by having fun and creating social networks in casual tournament style settings. Through games such as Risk, collectable card games, and fantasy role-playing games which will increase a student’s use of strategy and critical thinking.”

How is that different than casino nights hosted by STAR or game nights sponsored by residence halls? Maybe strategy and critical thinking could best be learned through the budgeting, advertising and other management skills required to run a club that more people can be involved in.

There are just too many clubs, and often it’s difficult to distinguish between one club’s goals and another’s. I find it ironic that multiple sustainability groups exist. It doesn’t surprise me that a Catholic school has many Christian groups, but there’s a club called Christian Leaders and its purpose is to “unite various Christian organizations on campus by bringing representatives from all of the Christian clubs and organizations on campus.”

I would rather see these clubs unite and receive a pool of funding instead of separate funding in addition to a paid leadership board.

How USG deals out the money

Brady Narloch, USG vice president of financial affairs, said during his four years on USG, he can only think of one or two clubs that haven’t been approved.

“When it comes to USG’s viewpoint on the matter, we should really be giving the benefit of the doubt when it comes approving clubs,” he said.

By the time clubs go to USG for final approval, “they’ve already been through a significant vetting process,” Narloch said.

Narloch said USG tends to allocate money to clubs and organizations that have more detailed budget forms. He admitted the system isn’t perfect, but said USG tries to do the best it can to give the money out responsibly.

“We don’t have time and resources to look into all the clubs and look into what they say they’re doing,” Narloch said regarding whether USG makes sure clubs fulfill the USG requirements. But he added that USG has increased the number of finance board members and those members check if students in charge of clubs and organizations use their funds for what they said they would.

Clubs should help create life skills

I don’t think all clubs are bad. I’m actively involved in some clubs on campus. Students benefit from clubs that give back to the community and enhance academic or spiritual development. Students can also get valuable experiences that apply to career and life situations. That’s the goal of college, right? To make students better citizens of the world so they can function in post-college life.

We need to re-evaluate how clubs come into existence and whether they benefit the community, especially since students pay for the funding. I would like to see stricter regulation of club funding and more investigation into whether clubs meet requirements. I want my money to go toward the greater community instead of paying for another student’s pizza lunch.

Theresa Malloy can be reached at

9 Replies to “Too many clubs on campus makes for inefficient spending”

  1. Awesome article. I agree 100%. Also, I would like to commend TommieMedia for their coverage lately. I’m not one to complain about concert music choices or leftover pizza, but a lot of stories here lately are asking tough questions about the administration, money and the choices made on this campus. The comments on these stories prove students are concerned too. I hope people in Aquinas Hall are reading TommieMedia and see the concern that is present. I’m sure they’re not, but someone should point it out to them. Way to go TM and way to go students! You DO have a voice.

  2. Just to clarify: if a first-year club has 10 members and is active all year, the club members pay (10 x 102.5 x 2)= 2,050 total in SAF fees over the course of the year. Roughly 40% of that falls under USG’s jurisdiction to distribute. So (2,050 x .4)= 820.00. This is very close to the first-year cap of 750 for new clubs. So to this extent other students are not paying for the funds allocated to such a club (all else being equal).

  3. Very good point Brady. However, most students are in multiple clubs, so their money would be spread out much more than just for one.

  4. I think Theresa raises some interesting points. We need to keep our student leaders accountable for how they allocate our money. However, having sat on the USG Finance Committee for the past year, I can assure my fellow students that the Committee does an outstanding job in vetting the allocation of funds. As Brady stated, our doctrine has been to give clubs requesting funds the benefit of the doubt. After all, these are their funds they’re requesting. At the same time, we have a per-member cap on certain costs like food. Recently, we’ve also cracked down on clubs who wish to hold end-of-the-year banquets. Our Committee no longer allows these. I would like to thank Theresa for raising these concerns. I believe it is important that UST students keep their student leaders like myself accountable. I promise my own dedication to allocate funds as fairly, responsibly and transparently as possible.

  5. Thanks for your contribution, John. But I want to emphasize this distinction: a student who is one club is likely to be involved with multiple clubs; but on average it is more likely that a student is not involved with any clubs at all. If we summed all of the reported membership on club budget requests from spring semester it would likely fall beneath 50% of total undergraduate enrollment (plus these numbers tend to be inflationary). Thus, the students who are rewarded by SAF club allocations are those who are active in their various organizations, and the SAF process is effective insofar as it incites active campus behavior outside the classroom.

  6. As the Student Organizations Chairman that sits and reviews all the club constitutions I feel that is our duty to allow students the benefit of the doubt and allow them to create clubs and student groups that allow them to use and earn back or have the opportunity to use their own student activity fee money. It is important for us to watch the precedent you set by grouping all the catholic discovery clubs together as one Having this many clubs is important for us to allow students to lead and organize a group. It gives every student the opportunity to grow and be able to have your own club. It is not fair to say that USG allows all clubs to eat pizza and things like that blindly. There are guidelines that the Finance Committee Follows. We are as consistent as we can be to all clubs. All USG general council meetings where we discuss budget requests and club funding are open to all students to attend. So the key to this article really and to make the club allocation process smoother , fill out the budget request as completely as possible, Submit the forms on Time and be honest and clear with where you are spending the money!

  7. The typical student most likely spends more than $105 on over-priced designer coffee; or, in some cases (no pun intended), much more annually on alcoholic beverages. I’ll assume having every available I-phone app is a “necessity”. Really, not too bad a deal to only spend $105 annually on clubs. Most of them provide some improvement in the social, physical. moral or intellectual development of the individual. Pay attention to details but don’t kill the cow because someone spilled a little milk.

  8. I don’t mind the student activity fee, I’m involved in enough groups where I feel like St. Thomas is cutting me a pretty good deal. If someone feels like they are not getting their fair share of the student activity fees they should consider it a sign that they need to get involved more on campus. By allowing a lot of diverse groups on campus (and funding them), it makes UST a more exciting place to go to school since there always seems to be something new and unique being brought on campus by students, for students. Besides, I doubt that there would be much student activity at UST without the activity fee, after-all, stuff costs money. With no activity fee, clubs would need to have membership fees or something equivalent- now let’s be realistic here – which would most definitely not work out in a positive way.

  9. It seems to me like the problem is the process of establishing a club. I go to a different Catholic college, with much stricter guidelines for clubs. To be approved, a club must:
    1.) Prove that it fits within the mission statement of the school
    2.) Contribute/provide an outlet not already being offered by another club on campus
    3.) Have 40 students who have expressed interest (and my school has only 3800 students)
    4.) Prove that it has longevity (ie., there must be students interested from several years so there would be continued leadership, not just the sophomore class or what have you)

    Greg has said that the ease of creating a club allows everyone to grow and take on leadership positions, but as Brady pointed out, not everyone in college is involved in clubs at all. Making the process a little more discerning does not seem incredibly harmful. In fact, the process itself would be a learning experience that would teach students to work hard and be prepared when they want to start something. Fewer clubs also would mean more money for the clubs that do exist, allowing them to put on larger events and be more effective in carrying out their purpose, whatever it may be.

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