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A Long Road To Recognition Ends For Climate Justice, With A Stipulation

After almost three active years on campus and multiple attempts, the student group Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC) was formally recognized by the administration as a registered student organization (RSO). The ruling, handed down earlier this week from the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), followed approval of CJBC by the Undergraduate Government of Boston College last spring.

“We don’t have student organizations that tell the University what to do.” -Gustavo Burkett, director of OSI

Several issues with CJBC’s constitution were at the center of the decision to approve them as an RSO in past attempts. CJBC, which was formerly known as BC Fossil Free, was solely focused on convincing the University to divest from fossil fuels when it first started getting involved on campus—one of the main reasons it was previously denied a registered status.

“We don’t have student organizations that tell the University what to do,” Gustavo Burkett, director of OSI, said.

In response, the group changed its constitution to reflect the educational element of divestment and is focusing on reaching out to students and interested parties about the detrimental effects of investing in fossil fuels.

OSI also requires that each student group elect leaders, primarily for administrative purposes. Burkett said that last spring, when CJBC was corresponding with OSI and trying to figure out the best way to approach RSO status, he never met with the same members on a consistent basis, which made it difficult to move the process along.

CJBC has utilized a flat power structure in the past, but complied with OSI’s requirement and designated Delia Ridge-Creamer, MCAS ’16, and Cara McPhillips, LSOE ’16, co-presidents, and Ellie Tedeschi, MCAS ’16, the treasurer. They still want to be viewed as a non-hierarchical organization, however, and simply view those roles as administration liaisons.

CJBC also ran into trouble with non-undergraduate members in the group. It was formed by graduate students who have stayed in contact with the group and have at least one alumni who is involved. But since RSOs are funded by the student activity fee that OSI pulls from all full-time BC undergraduates, OSI only allows full-time undergraduate students to hold leadership positions or have voting-eligible memberships.

Burkett said it has always been OSI’s policy to allow these associate members to participate, just not in active voting roles. But according to CJBC, OSI rewrote the handbook to allow the limited participation of associate members because CJBC was more or less created by these associate members.

Regardless of the abilities of the group’s associate members, CJBC is now afforded all the permissions that every other RSO on campus is allowed.

They can hang fliers around campus, apply for permits for events they wish to host, and bring speakers to campus.

McPhillips believes that the administration wanted CJBC to become a registered group. She argued that because CJBC would be forced to apply for permits, the University could keep tabs on what the group was trying to do.

But she also thinks that CJBC will be successful applying for permits despite its past history of organizing events without permits.

“They know the types of things we’re going to ask to be approved, and so we’re thinking that since they know what we’ve done in the past and they know what we’ll want to do, they wouldn’t just admit us as a RSO and then not let us do anything,” she said.

It is important to note, however, that CJBC was approved to be an RSO with the stipulation that the group would be on probation from OSI until the end of the academic year because of the group’s organization of past events without proper authorization.

Burkett said that even though CJBC is on probation, they still have all the abilities that other RSOs have. They just can’t break any more rules this academic year.

Even so, both Burkett and CJBC are working together in a positive direction. Burkett, as the group’s liaison to—and director of—OSI, said he is very excited to work with the group and facilitate the process of adapting to being a RSO.

On the other side, CJBC is looking forward to improving upon an existing relationship with Burkett.

“For two years we’ve had a relationship with him, and even though it’s been semi up and down, he’s always been, I think, supportive of our club and so I think it’s really good to have an advisor in OSI, someone there who supports us,” McPhillips said.

Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor

September 17, 2015