Northwest has the highest ratio of student organizations to students compared to neighboring universities, but the University’s organizations struggle with a shortage of trained advisers.
Student Senate recognized 10 new student organizations last semester, bringing the total number of organizations on campus to 218, making for one organization for every 25 students.
Comparably sized universities, like Pittsburg State University, have fewer organizations compared to their student bodies. Pittsburg State has a 1:38 organization-to-student ratio, Missouri Southern State University has a 1:38 ratio and Missouri Western State University has a 1:50 ratio.
Even larger universities have fewer organizations compared to their enrollment than Northwest; Missouri State University has a 1:40 ratio and the University of Missouri has a 1:43 ratio.
During the Oct. 23 meeting, Student Senate adviser Kori Hoffmann cautioned Student Senate to think carefully about recognitions with this issue in mind. Hoffmann said the University does not have enough trained advisers to support the number of organizations it has.
“Unfortunately, we have not had a system in place to train advisers and inform them of the expectations to be a good adviser,” Hoffmann said.
The Office of Student Involvement is creating an adviser training program so advisers know what is expected of them and are better equipped to help students.
If an adviser is not well equipped to help an organization, the Office of Student Involvement steps in, but this has led to the OSI becoming the adviser for a number of organizations. Hoffmann said this stretches OSI staff thin and prevents them from working on other aspects of their jobs.
Hoffmann said another issue is multiple recognized organizations fulfilling the same purpose or sharing goals with organizations that already exist, which is an issue Organizational Affairs Committee Chair Garrett Niemeier said the committee takes into account when considering a new organization.
“We want to have new organizations on campus, but sometimes we run into an organization that comes in and just sounds like one we already have on campus,” Niemeier said. “At that point, we usually refer them to that organization and invite them back the next week to discuss if they are still wanting to go through the recognition process.”
Hoffmann said some organizations come to Student Senate with ways to differentiate from other, similar organizations to justify creating a new organization. He said they could work together in one organization with separate committees.
The discussion surrounding Fighting Games Club, which sparked Hoffmann’s initial warning, centered primarily on how it differed from Northwest Games Club because the former was interested in competing in e-sports and the latter focused on board games and competition within the club.
Hoffmann said these organizations could have worked together in spite of their differences as separate committees.
“I advise the Bearcat Golf Club, and it includes people who just want to go to Mozingo for fun, but also those who go to competitions throughout the Midwest,” Hoffmann said. “They do not have separate organizations for each. Instead, they work together to support each other.”
Hoffmann said working together in this way provides valuable professional skills since many companies and large organizations have multiple divisions that work together toward a mutual goal but in different ways.
As well as having a deficit of trained advisers, the student population cannot support a number of organizations beyond a certain point. Hoffmann said he is unsure what this tipping point would be, but organizations are already struggling.
“We regularly have organizations contacting us saying their membership is falling, and they don’t know how to recruit new members,” Hoffmann said. “The number of organizations on campus is likely one of the reasons for that.”
Niemeier said the Organizational Affairs Committee has focused on the appropriations side of its duties with the goal to connect with more existing organizations through the Organizations Fair.
The committee created this goal during the fall 2017 semester when Niemeier joined the committee.
“We go up to each table and introduce ourselves and let them know how they can come to Senate to get appropriations,” Niemeier said. “We made business cards as well that included our names, office hours and instructions on how to get to the appropriation form. We also asked if they would give us their meeting times during the week.”
Organizational Affairs also worked with the Student Affairs Committee to meet with organizations and walk them through the appropriation application process.
Organizational Affairs appropriated a total of $10,275 to nine student organizations last semester of its $20,000 initial annual budget.
“Many organizations want to hold events on campus or go to a conference that will better their organizations and also Northwest,” Niemeier said. “Unfortunately, some organizations do not have the funds to fully do what they want. This means they can’t send as many people to the conference or have to cut some stuff from their event.”
An appropriation allows an organization to create or attend an event that would normally be outside of the organization’s budget and traditional fundraising ability.
Two appropriations last semester were amended to higher amounts from the suggestion made by organizational affairs. Niemeier said this is not an issue from the perspective of the committee since the opinion of the full Student Senate is the most important, but not all senators were in favor of giving more.
International Representative Samantha Mageto spoke out against all appropriation amendments on the grounds that organizations should show more effort in fundraising on their own before coming to Student Senate for an appropriation.
“They had not put much effort into getting the $1,350,” Mageto said about an appropriation to Anime Club that was amended from $750 to $1,350 last semester. “The previous years that I was in Student Senate, we had been advocating that students fundraise and then the amount of money they earned, we can match up to that.”
Mageto said she was concerned about setting a precedent where organizations would be granted an appropriation without making any efforts towards fundraising.
If the trends of amending appropriations to higher amounts, seeking more appropriations from organizations and recognizing more student organizations continue, the $20,000 committee budget cannot last an academic year.
However, during the week of Oct. 2 to Oct. 9, 2018, $13,500 was added to the organizational affairs committee budget, which was not announced during a full meeting.
Student Senate Treasurer Colton Downing said this money came from the “rollover budget,” which was unused money from the 2017-18 school year. The rollover budget was intended to be used for improvements throughout campus like replacing ropes and pole caps in the International Flag Plaza.
Potentially lacking funds, students and advisers, the University cannot sustain the number of student organizations if it continues to grow.
“From my view, I would rather have 100 well-organized, highly functioning organizations where every member is gaining valuable experience and skills than have 250 organizations where only a few are well-organized and high functioning while the rest are struggling to be effective,” Hoffmann said.