Applying to Form a New Group
The Columbia Law School Student Senate seeks to encourage the existence of a diverse offering of activities and associations that augment a student’s law school experience.
Student organizations provide important opportunities to students during their law school careers to participate in interesting events and projects and exercise positions of leadership that may both enrich and enlighten their Columbia legal education.
Recognition allows student leaders to be contacted by the Senate and Student Services with important information and helps ensure that Student Activity Fee funds are used to benefit all law school students and that groups are organized to enrich the social and general welfare of the students.
Several benefits attend recognition, including:
- a law.columbia.edu email account, and the Student Organization News and Information (SONI) system
- access to Student Activity Fee funding,
- access to the room reservation system
Overview of the Responsibilities of Running a Student Group
Before applying, please familiarize yourself with the following information.
You should be familiar with the CLS Student Organization Handbook, available on the Student Services' website . You must comply with the content of your own constitution. And all student groups must comply with The Guidelines (VI.B of the Student Senate bylaws). For example,
- You must demonstrate that your group won’t be redundant to an existing student group (partial list with details) (comprehensive list of names) (existing constitutions with missions statements), and that your existence will benefit our community.
- Membership must be open to AND limited to all law school students
- Your spending will be audited by the Student Senate Budget Committee.
- You must submit to the supervision of a large number of committees, run by aspiring lawyers.
- Leaders must also be members of the organization
- Recognized organizations may not be officially subject to another University authority (e.g., no Law School chapters of Business School organizations).
- Recognition may be withdrawn for violation of the Student Senate Constitution/By-Laws, any other University or Law School regulation, or your group's own constitution/by-laws.
- Beneficial Purpose Requirement. According to the Senate By-Laws, the proposed organization MUST have a purpose that is "sufficiently related to the law school community and sufficiently unrelated to the purpose of any other recognized organization so as to offer a distinct benefit to a substantial number of law school students." When thinking about this, try:
- Listing currently recognized organizations that seem most REDUNDANT (e.g., for a Texas Society, consider the Southern Caucus (a.k.a., Y'allSA)). Ask whether the proposed organization can effectively achieve its purpose by working with an existing organization.
- Listing currently recognized organizations that seem most the most ANALOGOUS but DIFFERENT (e.g., for a Texas Society, consider the California Society (a.k.a., CalSoc)). Ask whether the proposed organization's activities or services will be analogous. The more analogous, the more difficult it will be for the Committee to credibly distinguish the proposed organization from the existing organization. Organizational documents (proposed and existing) will aid this inquiry.
- Asking how much interest the proposed organization has already received (e.g., number of members, inquiries, etc.). How many active members does the proposed organization anticipate in a WORST case scenario? In a BEST case scenario? Please verify your assertions and predictions, as the Committee is likely to test them.
Budgetary implications of recognition. The Committee will carefully examine proposed organization applications and ask difficult questions, such as why Organization X cannot work through existing (and very similar) Organization Y to achieve its purposes.
Please note that all students who are thinking about starting a new student organization should attend Student Services’ “Student Organization Training,” which is usually held in September every year.
Step 1. Email the application (described below) to [email protected]. Deadlines are provided in the next section.
Step 2. The Student Senate Parliamentarian will correspond with you, and then the Senate's Recognition Committee will review your application and will determine whether to recommend your new student organization for recognition by the Student Senate. You will be notified of when the Committee will be meeting to review your application and will have the option of attending this meeting.
Step 3A. If your new student organization receives a favorable recommendation from the Recognition Committee, the Senate will vote on the Committee's recommendation at its next full meeting.
Step 3B. If the Recognition Committee DOES NOT recommend that the Senate recognize your group you will have the opportunity to amend your application in light of the explanation for rejection provided by the Parliamentarian and the Recognition Committee will review any amended applications and produce a final recommendation. The Senate will vote on both favorable and unfavorable recommendations of the Committee at the next meeting designated for these appeals. You may appeal the recognition committee's vote at this meeting. The following meetings are designated for these appeals:
Applications for the 2018-2019 cycle must be in by April 1st, 2019.
Contents of an Application
Under the Senate Bylaws (VI.C.1), you must submit the three items described below. Email these to [email protected]. A downloadable packet with the application is available here. Please review the deadlines above for when to submit your application.
1. A list of at least 12 founding members (name, class years, & email addresses). Please identify OFFICERS by title, especially those responsible for finances and record keeping. A president and a treasurer are recommended. The committee may waive the requirement of at least 12 founding members "upon a group's showing that its beneficial purpose does not require a standing membership." (This is a recent change and was intended by the senate to create a high bar; Deans’ Cup and Bar Review, for example, were cited when approving this change.)
2. A suitable constitution
According to the Senate’s bylaws (VI.B.2), your Constitution and/or bylaws MUST contain the following:
A. The organization’s name,
B. A clear statement of the organization's purpose,
C. The requirements for membership and leadership,
D. The procedure for selecting and removing leadership,
E. The duties of leadership,
F. The procedure for arriving at decisions (e.g., majority voting), and
G. The Senate’s Nondiscrimination Policy (bylaws VI.B.5). This is VERY IMPORTANT; the language must be included VERBATIM, or by section reference to the Senate's by-laws. The Senate will make no exceptions to this requirement, which was added in 2008 when an organization was accused of discriminating on the basis of religious affiliation.
3. Submit the completed application form.