story | Kimberly Yeo, Staff Writer
illustration | Nini Chang
Amidst the flurry of assignments and deadlines in the new semester, a number of students still managed to muster up the energy to apply for new student organizations, with mixed results. The natural question upon receiving a notice of non-approval is, why are certain student organizations approved and others not?
Nicole Nazareth ’22, Director of Student Organizations in the Student Government said, “When organization proposals are sent in, my standing committee, which includes the Director of Finance, and non-government members as well, has meetings to go through the timeline, constitution, and budget requests of the proposed student organisation and decide whether or not we want to have this group on campus. We think of what this group will contribute to campus, how much money we can give them, and if their mission is something we want to endorse.”
This academic year, multiple proposed student organizations have either been denied or asked to merge with other student organizations because their aims were too similar to those of already existing student organizations. Victoria Zlomanova(’21)’s recent proposal for a Yale-NUS Eastern European Society (YEES) was not approved in the Fall 2018 proposal round because the Student Org standing committee felt that the aims of YEES were too similar to that of European Society (now European Horizons).
Zlomanova felt that the YEES would contribute to the community in a very different way than European Society did. “Eastern Europe has a very different history, culture, and socio-economic class structure from the rest of Europe,” said Zlomanova. “We tried to explain this in the proposal, but the response we got was that we were too close to the European Society. But I think this isn’t correct, because the European Society, now European Horizons, is more concentrated on policy (rather than culture).”
YEES was encouraged to re-apply in Spring 2019 but did not out of concerns that they would simply receive another denial.
The Near Eastern Society is the product of a merger between the Turkic Society and Persian Society. The majority of the organization consists of members of the Turkic Society, while only two members remain from the Persian Society. While geographically, Persia and areas historically inhabited by Turks are close, Persian and Turkic culture are very different from each other.
“They asked us to merge the Turkic and Persian societies,” said President of Near Eastern Society Ekin Balcı ’21. “But a Turkic-Persian society doesn’t make sense; our visions are different. [As a Turkic society], we wanted to show people what Turkic people are as an ethnicity, and we wanted a platform to understand the differences and similarities between Turkic people. When they merged us it became this general thing.”
Balcı cites miscommunication as one of the causes for the merger. “I blame myself for not articulating that Turkic is an ethnicity and a broader thing,” she said. “It was up to us to give reasons not to merge.”
On the other hand, Sara Haghani ’21, an ex-member of the Near Eastern Society and Persian Society, said: ‘I believe [the merger is] a good fit especially since there are not a lot of representatives from either region. I personally tend to be very open to learning about different cultures so I don’t see a problem with merging. But I think it will be increasingly difficult to have equal representation of both because there are more Turkish students at [Yale-NUS College]. Then again, with the current political climate and the very negative coverage on Iran, I think it will be great to expose the community to the Persian culture no matter how little that is.”
Nazareth elaborated on the reasoning behind requesting certain organizations to merge. “If two organizations send in proposals and their member scope and mission statements are in line with each other, we might pair up the two points of contact [of the organizations] and see if they can come to a conclusion and submit together in the next round,” she said.
In response to merging ethnic or country based societies, Nicole said, “We had to think a lot about asking the Turkic and Persian society to merge because we don’t have a deeper understanding of those regional groups (as they do). Luckily it worked out, but if they had given their reasons for [not merging] we would have accepted that as well.”
Currently, the Near Eastern Society is looking to split back into their original organizations. “I’m thinking of explaining the differences (between the Turkic and Persian Society) to [the student org standing committee] when I have more time,” said Balcı.
A student organization that was almost denied was iGEM. iGEM is a synthetic biology competition in which a group of Yale-NUS students will be participating in this year. The iGEM team was initially denied student organization status when they applied this semester. However, after meeting in person with the student organization standing committee to explain their vision, iGEM was able to secure student organization status.
While iGEM did ultimately get a favorable result, some members felt that the process through which student organizations get approved could be improved. Co-President of the Yale-NUS iGEM team Samen Yasar Porag ’21 said, “Right now, student [organization] approval is mostly based on the student [organization] standing committee and I think that the process should be more rigorous than that.”