Being involved in campus organizations is a big part of being a Gustie. Ask almost any student on campus to describe themselves, and they’ll list off any number of commitments they have to student organizations. Being part of something you enjoy and that you believe in can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling and can offer an opportunity to add something that you are passionate about to your resume.
But being a part of and/or helping to lead a smaller or less recognized organization on campus can be an enormous amount of work and stress. Planning events, coordinating meetings and working with various campus offices to handle financial and administrative issues can all pile up quickly. While dividing duties among multiple members of an executive board can help, there is still an unbelievable amount of work to do.
These responsibilities can be even more difficult for students who are new to the process, are unsure where to start when forming a new organization or are stepping up to a leadership position for the first time. This is why support, clear communication and advice from offices such as the Campus Activities Office and other helpful offices is totally vital.
Yet this support, in my experience, is lackluster, especially for smaller, less established campus organizations that are looking to grow. While officer trainings and a handbook are offered to organizations, it is amazingly difficult to find any resources beyond that. Ask any first-year how to create their own organization, and it is unlikely that they will know. This is information that I think every student should have access to and it could be part of orientation.
There seems to be almost nowhere to turn. How is someone who has never planned an event supposed to go about doing so? If being involved in such an important value to Gustavus, shouldn’t it be a little easier to form a new student organization? While it is technically quite easy to fill out the paperwork, the actual work of creating and growing an organization from the ground isn’t knowledge that the typical college student has stored in their head.
I think it would be a great idea to hold events that offer to help guide the students that feel they need this type of guidance and support. Offering this type of information to all students may even encourage students who wouldn’t have otherwise considered taking up a leadership a position to do so.
These information sessions could also be helpful to students already involved in campus organizations to help to grow their organizations and make a few changes to their practices. Teaching these kinds of skills to young adults would be extremely useful to students looking for jobs and other types of opportunities after graduation.
A little more responsibility on the side of the school’s support system would also help. With planning events already being as much work as it is, everything running smoothly is of the utmost importance. But if a space isn’t properly reserved, a contract is lost or communication is nonexistent, it makes it difficult for organizers to properly execute their goals, no matter how much work they do. If supportive offices don’t do their part, it can make the organization look irresponsible, immature or undeserving of respect when in reality it’s not their fault.
Having a place where you can pursue your interests and your passions in college can change your entire experience. While there is a lot of responsibility, ultimately a student organization can act of a place of refuge for many students. Student organizations can also be another symbol of the diversity of people and of interests that can be found on campus. Offering every student an organization that interests them is one of the promises that Gustavus makes to prospective students.
If an organization doesn’t already exist, a student should have every right to create it and build it up from the ground. If the club is in disarray by the time that the student arrives, they should have every opportunity to bring it back to life. By not providing a solid support system for these types of students, not only are they being neglected, but Gustavus is denying its very own values.