Gaining recognition as a society in UCD can be a difficult and long process. Eithne Dodd breaks down the procedure.
There are currently over 70 societies active on campus and we will see three newly recognised societies at the freshers’ tent this week. Harry Potter Society is being recognised for the first time after almost five years of unofficial society status and the Horticultural Society and the Sinn Fein Society have been re-recognised.
For those students that have been, or are currently, involved in the process of gaining society recognition, the process is considered long and requires a serious commitment on the part of the students.
“When you want to create a society you essentially need to ask permission off the university to use the university’s name in an official or semi-official capacity”
In order to gain society recognition the students interested in setting up a society must talk to Liz Cronin from the Student Forum Office, Eoghan Murphy, Chair of the Societies Council or Richard Butler, the Societies Officer. They will discuss the students’ idea for a society and ensure it meets certain criteria and standards. “When you want to create a society you essentially need to ask permission off the university to use the university’s name in an official or semi-official capacity”, says Eoghan Murphy, Chair of the Societies’ Council. “Student societies are student run groups, they’re student focused groups everything about them is students . . . so the students need to champion it through the process.”
According to Eoghan Murphy, hundreds of students a year would ask him if they have a viable idea for a society. “That could be as simple as a facebook message, it could be a very quick email that says this is an idea that we have sometimes its people coming in the door, sometimes its people that you meet as you walk around the campus . . . eventually they’ll all land here at some point and the question will be ‘we’d like to set up a society’. . . not all hundreds would get to application stage.”
In the past, if the society’s application has been accepted, the society was invited to attend a meeting, in which the society makes its case for recognition. The meeting lasted between 30 and 40 minutes and is made up of a range of academics and student representatives. Sinn Féin Society auditor, Eoghan Ó Donnchú, said: “It was like two of us and 15 – 20 of them around a board.” Prospective societies are informed very quickly after the meeting whether or not they’ve been successful. Currently however the process of gaining society status is changing due to changes in the University Management Team (UMT).
“Following an academic council shakeup across the board and across the university last year, this (student societies) was deemed to be a non-academic activity” says Chair of the Societies Council, Eoghan Murphy. “Academic council moved the recognition of student societies . . . under UMT. UMT have moved all of those activities into the UMT student experience group. Student experience group have moved everything back under the student consultative forum. So now, the student consultative forum have given us the OK to go ahead and essentially come up with a new policy and a new procedure around the recognition of student societies.”
Where societies differ greatly is on how they found the application procedure
“We would hope to have it finalised and the first meeting of the committee held pre-Christmas” says Ó Donnchú. “Which would hopefully put us on a meeting for approval for a new society group immediately after the Christmas break.”
Although the recognition process is currently under review, there are still five parts to the written application. Each prospective society needs to submit a constitution, a mission statement, a list of objectives, a list of ideas for events for a semester and a list of student numbers and signatures who would be supportive of the idea of creating such a society.
Where societies differ greatly is on how they found the application procedure. Acting Auditor of Food Society, Tarik Shamoun, who submitted his application in April of this year said “it wasn’t all that complicated” On the other hand Sinn Féin submitted their application a year ago and their auditor, Ó Donnchú said, that at first, he found the process laborious and often difficult to understand. He notes that “by the end of the process we understood the importance of it”.
Although most of the students found the process of setting up a society long and difficult, they all were very positive about the help they received from the societies’ officer and societies’ council. Eva Ziggiotto, auditor of the Horticultural Society said: “Liz in the Student Forum was definitely a key person in our application, she has supported us from the very beginning when we were still putting our Society Plan and forms together.” Sinn Féin Society added “Eoghan has been extremely helpful with everything.”
“Initially it was a nightmare . . . If you’re not 100% dedicated to get it done, it’s very easy to just peter out”
Societies currently seeking recognition such as Food Society and Disney Society were also very positive about the help they have received from UCD staff. Disney Society said: “the societies’ council has been quite helpful in telling us what was required.” Food Society noted that Richard Butler, head of the societies council was also very helpful. “He was . . . very blunt at the first draft of our year plan but in doing that he pointed out a lot of holes that we had . . . It was constructive criticism.”
When asked overall how they had found the process of establishing a society Food Society commented that the process was challenging but “rewarding”. “Initially it was a nightmare . . . If you’re not 100% dedicated to get it done, it’s very easy to just peter out” they said. Murphy admitted that “it was quite work heavy to get a society recognised up until now.” Following the changes to the society recognition process, which should be finalised before semester two, it is hoped that the process will become more transparent. Murphy said: “We are hoping that now that we’ve taken it into the societies’ council hopefully all of that process will be a little bit more streamlined and will automatically tie into the functions of student society land [sic].”