Organizations often begin the same way; passionate students create a club built on a common collective, find a way of operating their club, and abide by a chosen charter. However, as student leaders transition out of school, many of these once thriving clubs are left with a lack of coordination, struggle with maintaining a structure and are unsuccessful in providing the necessary training and leadership tools to continuing members. These problems often result in a lack of direction on how members can carry on their organization and can lead to their inactivity on campus, or a club having to start anew from the ground up.
But these issues have not stopped students from leading the efforts to create their own communities and build unity. One of the student organizations that has been in the process of bringing their group back on campus has been the Black Student Union. When the previous BSU coordinator left, new students took to joining the leadership board and paving a new way of furthering their organization.
In the last Watchdog article, students heard from Zy Cole, the only active member at the time as well as the student coordinator of the BSU. “This is my first year running a BSU,” Cole told the Watchdog. “Last quarter was a lot of me working alone, making things happen and pushing them forward.” Striving to spread the word about BSU, Cole spent the beginning of winter quarter recruiting students on campus to come to meetings and find solidarity among other students of color.
Through these recruitment efforts, the BSU membership has continued to grow with every meeting, with the most recent meeting inviting 50 members. BSU also elected its new leadership board, comprised of five executive members. Joel Hendricks was elected to serve as president, and Safi Roberts as vice president.
While the new leadership team has kicked off planning events and holding meetings, there are still many obstacles executive officers face in setting up their organization. As leadership is made up primarily of new students; this is the first time for many executive BSU officers to hold a leadership position on campus. In reference to the methods of the old BSU, Cole told the Watchdog, “Meetings were done a certain way; things were taken to a vote a certain way.” Trying out new ways of managing meetings and finding ways to lead, “We are all trying to figure out what works best for us, and the system we have.”
Hendricks wanted to be a part of leadership because, “Previously, meetings have been all over the place. That is why I wanted to run for president, because I wanted to put a bit more structure into our meetings.” Even with the resources leadership has been given, executive members have taken on a lot of responsibility, figuring out how to guide such a large group of new interested faces and returning members, all the while driving changes to create a BSU with longevity on campus.
Navigating through the challenges of reframing a club constitution establishing the balance of following an agenda, and learning all the aspects of managing an organization, the key to the BSU has been teamwork. Roberts started collaborating with Cole to set up meetings and decided, “I really like helping out and I love BSU, so I’m gonna run for an officer position, and that’s what I did.” Tasks for leadership have ranged from project plans, to frequent meetings with Bellevue College administration, to immense planning in fostering their ideal environment.
Even with all the challenges leadership has to overcome, executive officers remain optimistic and enthusiastic about what they hope to accomplish in the future. Hendricks plans to create a space for students to “have room for fun, where people can turn up, dance. But also have a time for serious talks, like do you feel safe as a person of color in your environment?”
Hoping to create a place of safety, connection, and a tight-knit community, Roberts expressed “I’m excited to bring people together, and have a really good time. School is really stressful, and people are living their own hard lives, you want to have that community space where you get to be authentic and get to know people and branch out. We have some good stuff in mind for it, and I can’t wait to watch it come to life.”