Tips for Running Your Student Organization…Into the Ground
Not all student organizations are meant to succeed. Some are never meant to be started at all. Yet they proliferate at colleges and graduate schools around the world, most likely because the founders want a couple more lines of throat-clearing nonsense to fill up space on their resumes. Let me say this: if some poor sod hires you because you were the Vice Treasurer for the Bluegrass and the Law Club, you better wear a hardhat to protect yourself from that business or institution collapsing around you.
Brooklyn Law School, to be sure, boasts a variety of well-run, well-intentioned student organizations. BLSPI, among other noble deeds, provides one of the choicest spectacles of the academic year: the site of law students spastically flinging their arms in the air before one of 20 BarBri tuition coupons reach fifteen hundred dollars at the BLSPI auction. The ACLU and the Federalist Society host thought-provoking debates on almost painfully relevant topics. Organizations like these do things such as hold regular meetings, assign their executive board duties, and send several e-mails per week to those present on their listserv. I am sure the Brooklyn Law School Class of 2010 is equipped with more knowledge than they can handle about the massive amount of Thursday-night debauching their successors are engaging in at local watering holes.
This article is not for those organizations. This is instead a missive – a pamphlet if you will – for how to run a student organization operating on the very precipice of dignity. Those organizations that wondered how they ever passed the rigorous vetting process of the Student Bar Association.
1. “Co-Sponsor” Events with Other, More Responsible Organizations
It’s April, and you are slurping on another repulsive cup of street coffee. As you reach the lumpy chunks of congealed instant coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup, it strikes you: “Oh boy, I am the co-chair of a student organization! And we have neglected to hold a single event! Oh, the humanity!”
Don’t panic. There are other student organizations that are holding events, and they want you to co-sponsor their event with them. Why? Because it looks way cooler that way.
You must act quickly, for time is ticking away. Scan BLSConnect for any random event you observe. E-mail the organization’s leader, and express to them some attenuated connection your organization has to the event. Are they the Securities Law Organization (SLO), and are you the BLS Bingo Society (BLSBS)? Hey, both of your financial fortunes are contingent on old people regurgitating random numbers. Offer to chip in for sandwiches or soda or plates or something. Demand co-sponsorship in return. Do not back down.
And presto! Your organization has held an event.
2. Get Creative With E-Board Responsibilities
So, you at least have an e-board. Granted, that election you ran had all the democratic zeal of one run by Robert Mugabe, but still. But what do your e-board members do beyond bury their position in a discarded resume draft? Likely nothing. This, however, is where the framing and persuasive argument skills we all learn in law school come into play.
Does your treasurer have nothing to do with the financial affairs of the organization? You close-minded fools, our treasurer “treasures” the organization, in the affectionate sense!
Does your elected secretary fail to keep any sort of records or book event rooms? Cretins! Don’t you know that secretary also means “a writing desk with shelves on top of it” and that one’s brain could, in a metaphorical sense, be considered a desk with files and information inside and that, therefore, the secretary fulfills all their responsibilities by possessing any level of consciousness or sentience?
Just use these descriptions at your election meeting, if you even host one, and you’ll do just fine.
3. Set Unrealistically Ambitious Semester Goals
One way to benevolently sabotage your organization is to shoot for the stars. Lure students to one of our fine classrooms at the beginning of the semester with the promise of greasy food. And then, you soliloquize. You soliloquize about how your organization will have its “best semester yet” and “get guest speakers from inside the industry.” You’ll take field trips to relevant locations, and host networking events at rooftop speakeasies. Pump the room full of a vigorous, yet ultimately empty, energy.
Then, you wait. You wait until about March, or November, and send an e-mail to your listserv. You write something like “Sorry guys, we really shot for the stars this semester but we just couldn’t make it happen.” Do not provide any explanation as to what exactly you mean by “just couldn’t make it happen.” This will invite unnecessary questions and suspicion. And then, you commence recommendations one and two.
4. Promote Events That No One Actually Wants to Attend
The more involved cousin of tip number 3, but it will prove just as effective in (excusably) flat-lining your organization, while still allowing you to say “Hey, we tried.”
Brainstorm event ideas that not only will be difficult to execute, but also are either boring, uninteresting or weird. This provides the perfect excuse for cancelling your event “due to lack of interest” or because of “campus outcry.” Promote a screening of the movie “Plan 9 From Outer Space” without the Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary, or a movie about a racist dog. Plaster fliers all over campus about an underwater bingo in the fifth-floor men’s bathroom. The Meta-Club can shout from the mountaintops about a “Panel Discussion about Panel Discussions.” You get the idea. Your organization will be visible, yet largely ignored and marginalized, which means less work for you.
I wish you the best of success in running your student organization into the ground.