Student groups fight to remain

With more than 300 existing campus organizations, it isn’t hard for most students to find at least one group that speaks to them.

That is, unless that student is looking to join a political activist or awareness group – then that search becomes more difficult.

The past decade at the University has witnessed both the formation – and the demise – of dozens of politically-oriented campus organizations. Groups like Reach Out, Conservative Student Publications and local chapters of associations like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were once registered, funded student organizations.

But today, none of these organizations exists at BGSU.

Even though new organizations crop up each year, the University can’t seem to develop new groups as quickly as they lose old ones.

Brian Dixon, political action chair for the Latino Student Union, said the dwindling number of options offered for political expression leaves something to be desired for the student community.

“As far as groups to get involved with, you have your College Democrats, your College Republicans and you have USG on a more local level,” he said. “There does seem to be a void for politically-oriented groups.”

But Dixon said the problem might be that although organizations exist that cater to activism, students might not know anything about them – for a number of reasons.

“If [the organizations] are out there, they are not well-known, promoted or just not very active,” he said.

But in the case of Reach Out, a group which former president Jeff Nolish said, “stemmed out of the desire to lend a hand to the less fortunate and under-privileged,” the organization failed to recruit new members this year for a whole other reason.

It no longer exists.

In its recent history, Reach Out members came together to attend local rallies against the war in Iraq, traveled to the Republican National Convention to protest what they deemed an unfair administration. But the organization actually dates back to the 1980s, when it formed to educate the University community about apartheid in South Africa.

Reach Out – which peaked at about 40 members – called it quits when Nolish realized he and the majority of its members were graduating or leaving Bowling Green. The group reached a consensus to officially disband in May 2005.

But other groups, such as Conservative Student Publications – which is best known for writing and distributing its conservative news magazine the Renegade Review – split not because of loss of membership, but primarily due to funding issues.

David Scharfeld, former opinion editor of the Renegade Review and current graduate student at the University, said CSP stopped the presses because “the paper was expensive to operate and attempting to sell ad space was difficult” for the organization.

Created in fall 2003, Scharfeld said CSP formed to “provide a conservative perspective to the BGSU community on current events and campus issues.”

Scharfeld estimates the group of about 20 contributors released “about four or five” issues of the Renegade Review between Oct. 2003 and the fall of 2004, when the organization ceased to exist.

Scharfeld said the demise of CSP is disappointing because its publication provided a perspective other publications and professors do not offer students – which is one reason he hopes a fellow student might restart the organization someday.

“There are always people since then who have wanted the Renegade Review to be resurrected, but no one as of yet as stepped up to the plate,” he said.

In the last five years other clubs like the Current Political Issues Organization, NORML, ACLU and Veg 4 Life have formed and just as quickly slipped off the extracurricular radar.

Students looking to establish, or re-establish, campus organizations can visit OCI in the Union to pick up paperwork on starting up their new group. By providing a list of chosen officers, an adviser who has agreed to oversee the organization and the names of at least 10 other interested individuals, students then get to meet with a coordinator for student groups to gameplan recruiting for the organization.