Arts organizations have lacked advisers for two months

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior Mia Dortenzio, the president of GW Balance, said the organization needed an adviser to help purchase a backdrop to project lights on stage and plan the organization’s spring recital.

At least nine performing and visual arts student organizations have operated without an adviser since December.

After Davis Marquis, a program coordinator for student organizations, departed at the end of last semester to take a new position at the University of Texas at San Antonio, leaders from the student organizations he oversaw were told to direct questions to a general email address in the Center for Student Engagement. But more than two months later, students who lost their adviser said they have not been notified when they will be assigned a new adviser and have no direct point of contact in the CSE to ask questions about upcoming events or activities.

An email sent to student organizations on Dec. 13 said Marquis would leave the University by the end of the semester and members of the CSE were working to find a replacement.

Marquis said all the leaders of the clubs he had advised “really ran the show.”

“I don’t think I would be worried about the groups being successful without me,” Marquis said. “They were already doing that by themselves.”

Anne Graham, the assistant director of student involvement and Greek life, said Marquis advised 19 student organizations before he left and informed students how to seek support until a new adviser is appointed. She said the CSE’s staff adviser team has more than 20 “fully trained” advisers who help student organizations that email “orghelp@gwu.edu” or visit the student organization resource desk.

She said staff advisers respond to students within a business day and have helped several student organizations that were previously assigned to Marquis with issues like contracts and payments.

“We look forward to continuing to provide support to these organizations while we conduct a national search for a new staff member,” Graham said in an email.

Graham declined to say when the CSE will assign student organizations a new adviser.

Student organization leaders affected by the change said the lack of a staff adviser has hurt their ability to handle the specific needs of arts organizations, like planning performances or renting studios to practice shows.

Sophomore Dana Krauss, the community director of TEDx Foggy Bottom, said the organization needs a specific adviser who knows the ins and outs of its operations, rather than a general adviser who could help with documents or finances. She said Marquis provided the club with a contact in the District Department of Transportation when the group requested permits to feature food trucks in front of Lisner Auditorium during an event last April.

Marquis also worked with the Student Association to obtain additional storage space in lockers on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center, she said.

Krauss said the organization was assigned a new adviser earlier this month, but communicating with the CSE when they lacked an adviser was “frustrating” because staff provided generic “cut-and-paste” responses to their questions. She said she called the CSE about featuring food trucks in University Yard again this year but did not receive a concrete answer.

“Between the time Dave left and between getting our new adviser, it wasn’t impossible to run the org,” Krauss said. “It just felt like there were challenges we had to face that we had never had before.”

Senior Mia Dortenzio, the president of GW Balance, said the organization needed Marquis to help purchase a backdrop to project lights on stage and plan the organization’s spring recital, which requires access to the Lisner Auditorium downstage where costumes are stored.

“We’d definitely love to have a specific adviser eventually,” Dortenzio said. “One thing about being a dance org, and I think that it’s true for all orgs that are very specialized, is that we run into very specific problems.”

Junior Isabel DeCarvalho, the executive producer of the GW Shakespeare Company, said her club and three organizations in the Student Theatre Company have decided not to seek help from the CSE while they wait for a replacement adviser “because they don’t understand how our student theater companies run.”

DeCarvalho said theater companies need an adviser like Marquis who attended the clubs’ general body meetings and met with students at least twice a semester to review performances.

“We just want a specific person because during goal-setting, the specific adviser knows details about the org,” she said.

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