Rowan SJP’s long journey to becoming a chartered SGA organization

Rowan SJP logo. - Photo via @rowansjp

On Feb. 10, an upcoming club called, Rowan Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), made an Instagram post announcing their disappointment in being rejected by the Rowan Student Government Association’s (SGA) Club Development Committee. Only a few short weeks later, SJP has now transitioned into a petitioning organization—on the route of becoming a chartered organization.  

From the initial post on Feb. 10 to now, there has been a great deal of change. 

Part of the initial post read, “On February 5th, 2024, Rowan Students for Justice in Palestine presented in front of the SGA Club Development Committee, with the goal of taking the next step to become a chartered organization. After an unprofessional and indisputably biased questioning period, we were denied for being ‘too controversial’, despite the fact that we had met every requirement and expectation as outlined by the Student Government Associations governing documents.”

Zobia Bokhari is the co-founder and president of Rowan’s SJP. Bokhari is involved in various other clubs such as Rowan’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Rowan Progressives. She asserted that she understands the process of SGA’s Club Development Committee since she has been a senator for MSA for over the past year.

“I feel like I’m pretty familiar with the way the process works, what the [SGA Club Development] Committee looks for, what clubs get chartered, [and] what doesn’t,” Bokhari said. 

Although this initial rejection is past her and the issue has “been handled,” Bokhari reflects on her meeting with the SGA Club Development Committee.  

“I went through that presentation like 20 times and I made sure that we were checking every single box they asked for, and more. There was the committee meeting on the 5 [of Feb.] and we presented our club. There was a questioning period where members of the committee will ask you questions about your organization… It sort of turned into a political back-and-forth, rather than an actual conversation about the viability of the club,” Bokhari said. 

To keep committees and other branches of the SGA in order, there are bylaws and the SGA constitution. 

According to “Article I, Section I” of the SGA Constitution, “The SGA shall support unity, teamwork, diversification, acknowledgment of excellence, mutual respect and a dedication to the positive development of each and every individual.”

“We [Rowan SJP members] asked why they [SGA Club Development Committee] had said no and we kept getting a series of non-answers that weren’t related at all to the content of our presentation,” Bokhari said. 

The bylaws for the SGA Club Development Committee are not specific, but all members of the SGA, from senators to executive officers, must abide by the SGA Constitution. 

The SGA Club Development Committee is, according to “Section 500: Policies and Procedures Related to the Committees, Number 502-08,” “responsible for reviewing new club applications by reviewing petitioning club presentations, providing feedback, and voting on whether or not the petitioning organization will be moving on to present at the following Senate.”

The SGA Executive Vice President chairs the committee and is “composed of ‘Class I Senators.’” 

SGA Executive President Brianna Reagan was not present during this initial meeting so she could not give comments about it. 

“I can’t necessarily say what was said or what was not said, not to say that I disagree or that I do agree with the ‘too controversial’ comment, but because I was not there, I am not able to judge what exactly happened in the event that took place,” Reagan said. 

After the initial rejection, Rowan SJP appealed. They won their appeal which meant the SGA Executive Committee would vote on the matter.

According to “Article IV–The SGA Senate” of the SGA Constitution, “The Executive Board will then evaluate the facts of the report, speak to any people involved they deem necessary and take a vote; the Chief Commissioner ensuring that any person(s) involved in the matter waive their voting privileges on the matter and leave the room for the vote.”

Reagan confirmed this. 

“Any committee that the SGA chair is holding, my committee, senators within the senate are able to recuse themselves if they feel as though they cannot give a vote,” Reagan said.

This precautious step is allotted to avoid voting members’ votes being disrupted by personal biases. 

According to Reagan, current club committee members could not speak about the matter since this development is “ongoing,” but according to a former club development committee member, they did not witness members outwardly expressing their personal opinions.

“During my time I had no experience with biases,” said the former committee member who wished to stay anonymous to protect their reputation and standing with Rowan’s SGA.

After executive members voted, Rowan SJP became a petitioning organization. The road ahead of them is long but promising. 

“There’s a couple of steps that we still need to take to do before we get SGA funding and things like that. Basically, it’s sort of like a trial period. The goal of it is to basically prove that you can sustain yourselves,” Bokhari said. 

There are many steps Rowan SJP must take before they are fully recognized by Rowan SGA. Clubs that are petitioning have “four ‘Academic Months’” to prove themselves ready, according to “Section 400: Policies and Procedures Related to SGA Senate, Number 403-01” of the SGA Bylaws.

In addition, petitioning clubs can take part in the Senate and vote, but they must vote as “Petitioning.” Clubs that aren’t fully chartered must work twice as hard to prove themselves to the SGA Executive Committee Board.

“You’re required to complete a certain amount of service hours…and attend SGA Senate meetings and familiarize yourself with the role of [the] senate,” Bokhari said.  

Although the road ahead for SJP is long, Bokhari is optimistic about the club’s future. She hopes that SJP will make an impact at Rowan. 

“My hope for the Rowan SJP is to emphasize the fact that we are not powerless. We do have the power to organize, to mobilize, [and] to stop these atrocities from happening… The main thing I want to emphasize with this club is that change is possible both on our campus and beyond that,” Bokhari said.

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