By Ehlayna NapolitanoStaff Writer
SGA Rules Committee repealed the constitutions of three a capella groups on campus: The Hofbeats, The Dutchmen and Makin’ Treble. Its decision came during a meeting to ratify and reapprove constitutions on Monday.
“It was very much a surprise,” said Alexis di Gregorio, president of Makin’ Treble, of the decision. She and other leaders of the a cappella groups stated that the decision seemed, according to di Gregorio, to “come totally out of left field” and without warning.
“I know when I found out, I felt almost blindsided,” said Courtney Bago, vice president of The Hofbeats.
According to a press release from the SGA, the decision made on Monday night was based on a provision in the Student Government Constitution, which states that no club may discriminate among members based upon “race, sex, religion or inherent ability.” Therefore, the auditions processes of these groups did not follow this requirement, since students are turned away based on level of talent and, in the cases of Makin’ Treble and The Dutchmen, gender.
Sarah Sicard, the Rules Chair Pro-Tempore following ex-chair Ben Schaefer’s recent departure, said that the preamble (where the anti-discrimination clause is located) is only about a year old at this point. The preamble must now be included in every club’s constitution; the decision to force clubs to include this preamble, according to Sicard, was not a decision made by the SGA.
“Last year, we updated our club constitution guidelines because we were handed down from administration this preamble,” Sicard said. These changes were enacted last February and SGA has since held “numerous sessions” to inform clubs of these changes, according to a SGA press release.
Where these changes came from, however, is something that neither SGA nor the a capella groups seem to know for sure.
“I had heard something along the lines of [Hofstra] Legal handed it down…I know OSLA had us put it in there. I don’t know if they were the ones who wrote it specifically,” Sicard said.
Similarly, student members of the a cappella groups were unsure of the origins of this particular clause and its application toward other performance groups.
Despite multiple phone calls and emails, OSLA and the Office of Legal Affairs and General Counsel were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
According to Sicard, the singularity of the rejection of the a cappella groups was not intentional; in fact, the effect of this was meant to reach clubs that have auditions.
“We had initially planned to have talks with certain fraternities and dance groups as well,” said Sicard. “But most of them didn’t come, so we didn’t actually get to speak with them, which is something we will be dealing with also. But basically we’re asking the same questions to all clubs.”
Sigma’cappella, another a capella group on campus, did not have its constitution rejected. According to Megan Andrews, Appropriations Chair of SGA, the decision to exclude this group was made because their constitution allows students who do not meet audition requirements to continue to rehearse with the club. However, students of the three now-inactive a capella organizations feel that there is no difference between the way Sigma’cappella and their own groups actually operate.
“It is common knowledge that Sigma holds audition processes very similar to the other three groups, and frankly, I’m confused,” Jackie Bakewell, president of The Hofbeats, said.
Di Gregorio felt similarly. “As far as I know, they [Sigma] followed the same procedures as the other a cappella groups. As to why their constitution was approved, I don’t know.”
Sigma’capella could not be reached during time of publication.
SGA has already sent an email to these groups regarding alternative ways for the clubs to still exist at Hofstra. This includes becoming independent of SGA by using alternate sources of funding such as club dues, event fees or the support of a particular academic department.
However, members argue that the size limits of a proper-sounding a cappella group, which typically consists of 15-20 members, along with the diversity of its membership makes adopting these alternatives difficult.
“The members of Hofbeats are psych majors, music majors, drama majors. There’s no way to put us in one department,” Bago said.
Similarly, Sean Raftery, vice president of The Dutchmen, stated that it would have an adverse effect on the ability of the groups to include members who were not a part of the major or department funding the group.
“It becomes something where it’s difficult to include non-majors,” said Raftery. “Would the non-majors even know [the group] exists?”
This is partly in reference to concerns that the current, inactive status of the a cappella groups would exclude the clubs from Collegiate Link and jeopardize membership. Sicard stressed, however, that as University-registered clubs, Makin' Treble, The Hofbeats and The Dutchmen would still be able to keep their accounts on Collegiate Link and remain active as University clubs, even if their status in SGA is being put on hold.
One other possible solution proposed by SGA was the development of an “umbrella group,” membership which would be open to any student. SGA would appropriate funds to this group, and then that group would disperse the money to the various a cappella groups accordingly. However, students feel that this would act detrimentally to the functions of the groups as well.
“Would they know the needs if they’re not in the performing leg [of a group?]” Raftery asks. “It poses logistical problems.”
Currently, both SGA and the three a capella groups plan to set up a follow-up meeting, and a second hearing is to take place next week. However, the clubs are hoping for the best to come of what they see as an unfair situation.
“It’s like a mom with two kids,” di Gregorio said, “asking [one of them], ‘Sally, why can’t you be more like Becky?’…We don’t feel active.”