CSE advising changes to offer as-needed support for some student organizations

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Updated: Aug. 30, 2018 at 10:11 a.m.

Student organization leaders will now get personalized feedback from the Center for Student Engagement.

In a notice sent to student organizations Friday, Anne Graham, the assistant director of student involvement and Greek life, announced a new advising framework for student groups – one that assigns advisers to organizations on an as-needed basis and offers daily office hours for all student leaders. Student leaders said the changes will enable advisers to devote more attention to larger organizations with more programming and larger budgets.

Under the new model, student organizations will be assigned an adviser based on their “individualized needs,” like the size of their budget, number of events or type of activity “and will receive support accordingly,” Graham said in an email. Previously, all 492 student groups were assigned an adviser, with some overseeing more than 35 student groups at once, Graham said.

“With a continuously growing number of student organizations and shifting responsibilities of staff, our model of advising was not conducive to providing a level of support that we deemed effective or sustainable,” Graham said.

For student organizations that aren’t assigned a staff adviser, members can visit daily office hours at the CSE resource and finance desk for questions about spending or programming, she said. The finance help desk isn’t yet available to students, according to the notice sent to student groups last week.

Graham said student groups will be evaluated annually to determine whether they’ll receive an individual adviser, and officials will track the number of office visits between groups. If an organization shows “increased need for support” over the year, it will be assigned an adviser immediately, she said.

Student groups are also required to attend a fall orientation meeting with their assigned adviser, on top of five mandated leadership seminars.

She said the changes were determined after evaluating data from last academic year’s Student Organization Resource Survey, in which 85 percent of students said they agreed or strongly agreed that they could obtain the information they needed when they visited the student organization resource desk. The resource desk last year received about two visits per day and 13 visits in its first two days this week, “indicating that the desk was a vastly underutilized avenue of high-quality support for student organizations,” she said.

Student organization leaders from large groups said they’d prefer to keep their adviser rather than attend office hours because they offer outside input on planning large events. But others said the walk-in hours will be helpful for small groups that can plan events on their own without administrative support.

Student groups haven’t been notified about whether they still have an adviser and haven’t been told when the notice would arrive, they said.

Cole Perry, the chairman for the College Republicans, said that as a relatively large group on campus, CRs relies on its adviser, who recently moved to another school, to meet weekly about internal issues within the group. CRs needs specialized attention to help plan its annual retreat and November election events, he said.

“We’re big enough as a club that we’ll probably still need a full-time adviser,” Perry said. “They won’t be pressured to meet with them consistently or send notes and we might be given individual attention.”

Ife Akinmade, the president of the African Students Association, said the new advising structure could be better for smaller groups that don’t need a direct point-of-contact to oversee low-scale events and manage a relatively smaller budget. ASA has about 200 members, he said.

Akinmade said he communicates with his current adviser, Charlotte McLoud, but typically uses her to schedule space for major events, like the group’s spring conference. With fewer advisers, McLoud could pay more attention to ASA’s programming, he said

“It’s better because the adviser’s time is narrowed down to one org and they don’t have to balance other orgs,” he said. “She was very effective last semester, she provided us with everything we needed to have and she gives us all the answers we need.”

Adria Carter, the president of GW’s chapter of the NAACP, said she’d benefit from the changes because as a commuter student, it would be easier to drop into office hours rather than schedule a meeting with an individual adviser. She said that in the past, she rarely used her adviser and largely planned events on her own.

Carter said she didn’t receive any notice about whether the organization will receive a new adviser.

“Being able to see someone on a walk-in basis rather than just on your adviser being available, I think that will be helpful for little issues that might go on,” she said.

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