Many college groups struggle with justifying themselves to the folks in charge of renting space, doling out money, using vans, or whatever. Cultivating a good relationship with different parts of the Administration is important to the long term strength of your group or event. Of course every college administration is arranged differently, but here are a few general tips.
- Cultivate personal contacts. Learn who is responsible for what within the college administration and get to know them. Invite them to come to your events. Even if they don't ever come they'll appreciate the invitation and your interest.
- Get official club status
- Be firm. Schedule meetings with the people in charge of scheduling, building spaces, funding, etc., and come prepared to advocate for your group and not back down. What you are doing is a unique service to the community.
- If you have trouble with some part of the administration, here is some advice. (The Swarthmore Folk Dance Club had trouble with administrators threatening to restrict their use of college space because of alleged damage to the floor. The club went to great lengths to show that they were not the people responsible for the damage).
"I would say our greatest advice for working with administration is documentation, politeness and a willingness to go to great lengths to please them if it means they'll let you have what you want. You'll see with the floors debacle, we took photographs, we mopped before and after dances, brushed shoes and even removed them. [A club member] sent very thorough and carefully worded emails and even went to talk to them in person without them asking." - Marissa Roque (Swarthmore)
- Look for allies in the faculty and staff. Are there avid dancers/musicians in the faculty or staff? Ethnomusicologists who have experience in folk traditions? History Profs interested in Jane Austen era culture? You never know who might prove interested.
"Don't hesitate to make personal connections with faculty and staff members, a lot of college professors have done folk dance at some point in their lives, and even if they haven't done it recently they might lend your arguments some support."- Marissa Roque (Swarthmore)
- Make contacts in the broader dance community. Colleges like to be good neighbors, and showing that you have people from the outside community participating can make your event more appealing. Help them to understand that the activities you are promoting have a long history and broad appeal in the world at large.
HOW TO EXPLAIN TO ADMINISTRATORS WHAT YOU'RE DOING
- Emphasize the social nature of the dance/music
- Emphasize the history of the traditions you are promoting
- Emphasize that everyone is invited.
- Emphasize the the event is non-alcoholic
- Talk about connections with the community at large, if that is a part of your group or event
- Julia from Brown says:
"At Brown, the only time that I use the word 'folk' to describe contra dance is to talk to the administration. I would also mention the fact that dances usually end at an earlier hour than most other college events. Since the dance at Brown welcomes dancers from the community, this is another angle to which the administration responded well. The university that community members experienced a contra dance was one that the administration was happy to present. The contra dance there has a particularly low rate of experiencing any trouble, and now the adminstration has begun to respond to our excellent record and to trust us."
- Emily Troll from Wesleyan says:
"We generally use the 'social dancing to live music' route. Live music really gets folks excited since it's much less present in our broader society. Administrators might also like the whole 'This is what people used to do for fun in New England (as true or not true as that might be!)' and the 'It's healthy, fun, and everyone's invited!' Definitely invite everyone you talk to about it, a personal invitation and a 'hope to see you there' goes a long way even if your bureaucrats and professors don't end up showing up, they'll feel welcomed and included and people like that rarely get invited to student events.
Similar stuff works for convincing the student budget committee. It also helps to appear self-sufficient and well-put together (I guess for anyone you'd talk to). If you've got the sound and the space under control, people are more likely to respect your group and give you money."