add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );The Biggest Club at Boston College is Gone and Probably Won’t Exist Ever Again. - BANG.
Caroline Burke / Gavel Media

The Biggest Club at Boston College is Gone and Probably Won’t Exist Ever Again.

By the time Greg Robinson, MCAS ‘06, was running it, Boston College’s Ski & Snowboard Club was taking a couple of hundred freshmen to Quebec City every January, organizing winter and spring break trips to places like Breckenridge, Colorado, and Innsbruck, Austria, and had corporate sponsors like Monster Energy and Rockstar Energy.

The club also boasted the largest number of members of any student organization. Over 600 students packed into Devlin 008 every fall, eager to hear what the biggest club on campus had planned for the new school year, be it ski movie premieres, weekend trips to Vermont, or renting out bars for legendary parties.

“We had a big social presence on campus,” Robinson says with a wink. “In retrospect, we shouldn’t have taken the interview.”

Robinson, now a data scientist living in Basalt, Colorado, who spends his spring and fall in Baja, Mexico, surfing, and the rest of the year skiing, is referring to a Heights article from November of 2004, titled “Ski, snowboard, party? Student club concentrates on social life as much as skiing.” The article, written by Gregory White, MCAS ‘06, details the party scene of the Ski & Snowboard Club. Its fallout ended the club.

White interviewed club leaders, including Robinson, and party attendees in the article. He learned that the parties required tickets to get in due to the club’s size and that despite tickets saying, “you must be over 21 to consume alcohol,” underage people still drank, and that club officers were allegedly involved with planning these parties. 

“He didn’t ask us the questions that he wrote about. It was a bit of gotcha-journalism,” Robinson says. “There was tons and tons of demand for these parties. He wrote the article because he couldn’t get a ticket and was sore.”

I reached out to White, now the Global Head of Integrated Media for On Running in Portland, Oregon, for comment, but he didn’t respond. The article eventually moves from party culture to skiing, but the damage had already been done. In the weeks following the article, BC’s administration called the club’s officers into the Dean’s office, reclassified the club, which was an interest group, as a club sport, and according to Robinson, “regulated it out of existence.” Club sports rules now applied; they needed to compete, and if they traveled over a couple of hundred miles, it could only be for competition. No more Whistler. No more Quebec City. No more parties. 

“We were kind of proud of getting shut down at the time,” Robinson says. “But now that you guys can’t get a club started, it’s a total bummer.”

Nearly 15 years later, a new generation of skiers that feel boxed in on BC’s campus, including myself, have tried multiple times to bring snowsports back to the less-serious student population. Each time, however, we’ve been stopped without rhyme or reason. It can’t be the former club’s reputation. Every club throws parties. There has to be another explanation. 

I tried to register a Ski & Board Club on campus through MyBC and OrgSync, the Office of Student Organizations' (OSI) complicated marriage of websites for club management, in the spring of 2020. I’ve been a fantastically mediocre skier my whole life and I thought it was a travesty that my second-choice school, the University of Vermont, got to have a big and beautiful ski club while BC sat on the bench. Spurred on by raw excitement and constant repetition of Warren Miller quotes, my friends and I recruited snow enthusiasts from all grades, identified a BC professor willing to advise us, and even made a short ski film with my buddies to support the accessibility and creativity of our club. We were confident that our club met OSI’s 11 criteria (see page 3) for new student organizations and couldn’t wait to build a community.

Then, in March, COVID sent us home. My friends and I sat in our rooms for a month, reminiscing on our trip to Mont Tremblant a week before we were told to pack our bags. And then, on April 9th, 2020, without any explanation, I got an email alert from OrgSync: “Your new org registration request for Ski and Board Club has been denied by Claire Ostrander.”

I emailed Ostrander to ask why in the week following our denial, but never got a response. This frustrated me, but I chalked it up to COVID and its disorienting effect on everyone. Maybe next year.

Next year they brought fresh blood. Lucas Steiner, CSOM ‘23, from Boulder, Colorado, led the push for a ski club. I volunteered myself for a board of directors-style E-board position to add class year diversity and Steiner collected 137 signatures purely through word of mouth, far exceeding the minimum requirement of ten. 

“We spent almost every day over two weeks creating and perfecting our application, building upon the one you guys submitted,” Steiner says from his study abroad in Copenhagen. “It ended up being six pages single-spaced but it was obvious from the feedback we received that they barely looked at it.”

Steiner’s application was rejected two months after it was sent in. Victoria Wittgen, MCAS ‘22, from the Board of Student Organizations (BSO) wrote in a letter that their application failed to meet Criteria 2: “The organization does not duplicate another student organization and has minimal overlap with the missions and goals of other student organizations, offices, and services on campus.” BSO reasoned that the Ski & Board Club’s mission and events would overlap with those of the Outdoors Club and Outdoor Adventures on campus.

Steiner disagreed with this point. In a rebuttal email to BSO’s rejection, Steiner wrote that “neither of these existing organizations conducts any downhill skiing trips, and both fail to foster a community for people with a shared love for downhill skiing. Members of our proposed executive board have attempted to push our interests in both of these organizations. However, we've been consistently met with resistance from members of both organizations, largely due to the major internal changes they would have to make to accommodate downhill skiing.”

The Outdoors Club has been inactive for the most part since COVID, and while OA may have a large budget and infrastructure to deal with liability issues, they have never run ski trips, they don’t have downhill resort ski gear, and they’re not a club—they’re a program run through Campus Recreation. BSO’s rejection seemed ignorant of these facts, and Steiner let them know this in another email. He also emphasized the fact that an “exhaustive” number of nearby schools have ski and board clubs, fully independent from their outing clubs. 

Wittgen and BSO responded to Steiner’s qualms after consulting OSI and changed their reasoning for the rejection, writing, “the mission of student organizations is to bring value back to campus. A club that takes place entirely off-campus is largely out of scope for OSI student organizations, and with that comes legal and risk management issues as well.” They went on to lay out the resources OA has to run trips safely that OSI is unable to match. The conclusion of the email told Steiner to use a “ski shuttle offered through OA.” OA has never had a ski shuttle. 

OSI may have been right. Ski & Board Clubs are inherently different from other organizations. The risk factor, assuming the club runs trips and is not just a conduit for people with similar interests to meet, is higher. Lift tickets and gas are pricey. Snowsports are also privileged activities that marginalized groups have historically been excluded from. We definitely don’t need more of that. 

The culture of the former Ski & Snowboard Club also seemed less than ideal. In my time digging for information on the former club, I ended up on an early-2010s blog titled “Broston College.” In between advertisements for the Ski & Snowboard Club that read, “the only club to have been banned from BC sponsorship” and images of a skier slamming back a bottle, there were promotional posts about Skoal Tobacco Dip and misogynistic musings on “chicks” at the gym. Maybe it’s better that OSI not rekindle what looked to be an outlet for BC’s frat-starved bros. 

Aside from the culture, however, BC and OSI have already rekindled large off-campus outings. The only difference is that between ski trips, Campus Activities Board (CAB), also teaches cooking classes and throws concerts. 

The Campus Activities Board is notorious at Boston College. Their Stokes Set performer picks, finicky ticket websites, and two incidents of giving away cars to their own members have left bad tastes in the greater student population's mouths. 

“If I were going to rig the car giveaway, I would’ve given it to myself,” Jason Marcin, MCAS ‘22, a program ambassador for OSI and vice president of operations for CAB, says over Zoom from his mod. “Campus mood towards CAB has definitely shifted to CAB-hate.”

Marcin has been with CAB since his freshman year and has insight into the inner workings of the program. CAB, who used to be a facet of BC’s Undergraduate Government before splitting into their own program, has different ways of going about their funding, liability management, and activities than OSI and the Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC). They have two graduate assistants who are paid a stipend to be accountable for funds and reserve space for meetings, 126 student members, and a full-time advisor, Kyle Neary, who works for OSI as Assistant Director of Student Programming. They also report their finances to Jonathan Heinrichs, a direct employee in University Finances.

“We have a different way that we go through the whole process,” Marcin says. “We are all volunteers, and it’s fun to let your creativity ride.”

CAB at its heart, aims to “create diverse events, programs, and activities that foster personal development, school spirit, and community development,” according to their mission statement. CAB’s size and scope interfere with community development amongst smaller groups though. They have run large programs in the past that intersected with other clubs’ interests.

“We want to be more of a partner and bring new people into the fold,” Marcin says. “In recent years as CAB has matured and grown, we’ve aimed to branch out a bit more and partner with different groups on campus. We’ve collaborated with the Haitian Association and recently we ran an event with FACES called ‘History of Black Lives at BC.’”

This is an important evolution for CAB, considering their budget and access to resources. This doesn’t, however, change the fact that while OSI rejects Ski & Board Club applications each year, CAB is permitted to take a Greyhound bus worth of kids two hours North to Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire for a day, tickets, transportation, and rentals included in the $75 price tag. Why can’t CAB partner with a Ski & Board Club to make these trips happen?

Maybe the problem lies within BC’s distribution of power and finances. CAB’s ability to bypass OSI and SOFC’s red tape puts them in a privileged position. They table at activities fairs on campus and come off as a club, yet their resources mirror those of UGBC. CAB’s responsibilities to put on events for the whole campus require a level of increased resources, but the question remains as to who gave them that responsibility in the first place. Students' wants and needs for participation in campus life are personal, and without OSI sponsorship, their hopes are left in CAB’s hands. I grew up 25 minutes from Mt. Sunapee, and I can think of several other non-Vail resorts that are cheaper, closer to Boston, and have better snow. But I don’t want to join CAB.

The alternative route through OSI and SOFC, however, has proven to be difficult. Aside from the ski community's consistent struggle to start a club, other interest groups on campus have been left asking for spare change. “OSI picks and chooses which clubs to fund, approve events, and give space to,” a club officer says anonymously for fear of jeopardizing their club. “A club like the pro-life club can table every Friday in McElroy Commons, but when I asked if my club could table to support our show, we were denied. The show involved women’s issues and our subject matter was said to be too intense.” 

That same anonymous officer also says that on the first passes of budgets in the past, their relatively new club has received less than $100 for full performances. Meanwhile, Asinine Sketch and Improv Comedy, as an example, was able to pull over $100 for a donkey costume used in a show, according to a source within the group.

Another, more recent instance involves the Slavic Club. The club asked that their budgeted funds for events be reappropriated towards fundraising efforts involving a buy-in raffle for gift cards. The proceeds were for the war in Ukraine. SOFC, however, declined to reappropriate the funds. “They refused to be flexible despite there being a literal war going on,” an anonymous source from the Slavic Club says.

Both instances of funding discrepancies and the disinclination to assist clubs at low costs left me looking for answers as to how OSI and SOFC determine budgets and dole out cash. I emailed Ostrander, who is the Director of OSI. She directed me to Roatha Kong, Associate Director of Student Involvement. After emailing back and forth with Kong a few times, she asked me to send my questions via email. Unfortunately, after I sent the questions and followed up twice, Kong didn’t respond. 

A Ski & Board Club is not that important. My time at BC is nearly done, and I’ve skied enough over the past couple of winters to be satisfied. If you truly love something, you will find a way to engage with it no matter the circumstances. 

The importance lies in BC’s service to its students. Universities, at their heart, should be by students and for students, whether by some moral or financial obligation. We are citizens of BC, not its subjects. 

This is where the OSI, SOFC, BSO, and CAB coalition misses the mark. No BC student asks for CAB to decide what a fun event is and what isn’t. No BC student asks for OSI to determine the adequate criteria for a student organization. BC students ask for an extra hundred dollars for an event, plastic folding tables so they can have a home base to yell out their passion, and occasionally, they ask for a ski club.

And I’m sure BC’s involvement conglomerate works hard and cares. “You can see the stress the staff is feeling,” Marcin says of his time as a program ambassador for OSI. “Pro staff always walk students out of Carney 131 after meetings and on the way out, they leave in a better place.”

But is that “better place” as good as it can be? One of OSI’s excuses for Steiner’s assertion that other universities allow for ski clubs was “Boston College structures student organizations in a different way than the universities mentioned.” This different approach seems to only cause frustration on the students’ behalf. If other universities can figure it out, why can’t we? If BC and OSI truly love their students, they can find better ways to engage and better satisfy students’ needs, no matter the circumstances.

But maybe I’m just seeking vengeance for an experience lost. Maybe I should’ve gone to more CAB “Ice Jams.” Maybe I’m just sore. 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the price of Asinine's "donkey costume" as $400. The number has been updated to reflect its correct value.

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I like studying the backcountry, baking in the backcountry, and peeing in the backcountry.