In search of legitimacy, new RSO leaders seek advisors for their organizations
For many undergraduates across the country, extracurricular interests, passions and missions enhance (and sometimes define) the college experience. At the university, registered student organizations (RSOs) serve as the de facto home to many of these activities.
But when the university requires that RSOs enlist formal advisors from faculty or staff to legitimize them in the long-term, some RSOs find that the process can detract from pursuing their goals. In some cases, finding an advisor with similar interests or goals is a challenge in itself.
Sophomore Amelia Ritter, who started the Korean Dance and Culture Club this semester, knows this all too well.
“I don’t know what to do for an advisor because I obviously want someone who’s interested in the topic. But there’s no Korean classes on campus, and there’s no Korean language classes, so I don’t know who to ask,” Ritter says.
Despite the absence of a comprehensive Korean program at the university, Ritter has shifted her focus to other globally-minded administrations on campus.
“I was trying to involve ELI [English Language Institute] as well because I know they do have some Korean students, but they haven’t been that interested yet, which is understandable,” Ritter says. “I’m a member of Delaware Diplomats, and they gave us this statistic when we first started that said something like ‘less than one percent of foreign students have an American friend by the end of college’ which is really sad.”
The Delaware Diplomats are an organization on campus dedicated to promoting a broader discussion about foreign cultures and languages on campus.
Ritter adds that she hopes the club helps bridge the gap between foreign and domestic students, but that because it pertains to such a small group, ELI is less likely to get involved. As a result, the Korean Dance and Culture Club is denied a potentially suitable advisor.
Other advisor-seeking RSOs on campus have also been networking in an effort to secure advisors.
For the S.H.A.D.E.S musical ensemble, founded last year, a convenient connection in the admissions office helped expedite their establishment process. When the group realized they needed an advisor to be recognized as an RSO, the cofounders, Maryam Wilson and Haley Magwood, along with Jafil, reached out to a friend for help.
“We talked with him about what our organization is about, and that we obviously want to keep it going but we need an advisor,” co-founder and current President Abeer Jafil says. “It’s hard sometimes to get an advisor because a lot of them are busy with their own responsibilities and things like that. But he was up for the job and said yes.”
Like Ritter, Jafil wanted to found a club because of passions and interests that she felt were underrepresented on campus, namely, cultural music out of the mainstream. This sentiment extends to their organization’s members as well, underscoring the importance of the groups at the university, regardless of the difficulties of establishing a club.
“It’s kind of like our mission and why we did it is, because of the fact that we’re giving people the place to come sing and the chance to be part of a group where we all have the same passion, we’re realizing the talent that’s really in the community,” Jafil says. “Sometimes those people are not really coming out and showing what they have to offer, because they didn’t have the chance to before.”
For some other newly-founded groups, more direct measures of initiative haven proven successful.
Umma Fatema founded the Humans for Rohingya club early this year, which aims at raising awareness and funding for the humanitarian and political crisis facing the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Shortly after starting the group, Fatema was able to contact the RSO director, Alex Keen, to find out exactly what new organizations need to have.
“I met with him to find out what’s allowed with the guidelines for RSOs and what is not allowed and so on. Being fairly new is difficult because you have to get all the tasks and paperwork done,” Fatema says. “I think I’m very persistent, keep annoying them until they say yes.”
Aside from approaching the RSO administration directly, Fatema recommends working with other groups on campus with similar goals and continuously planning events to seek out advisors.
Going forward, leaders like Fatema are also considering the future of their organizations, and what it will take to keep everything running smoothly.
“Since we’re new, I think it will take some time. The sad thing is, I don’t think this issue will be solved in the next however many years,” Fatema says. “I’m a senior, I’ll graduate, I just hope that there will be someone to take it up after me.