Wednesday, 24 July 2013

On the Care and Feeding of Colleges

A subject that is quite close to me right now is the ways in which Colleges, those university-based branches of the SCA, are like and unalike the other branches of the SCA. This is the first in a series of posts on the matter of Colleges, as there is far too much for one post.

I joined the SCA through the College of St Aldhelm, and also had the variable pleasure of leading that group for something more than two years. I'm currently still a member, and having to resist the urge to keep leading the group despite having passed the key to my successor.

Most of my experience is with a fairly small, old College. Membership tends to wax and wane, getting as low as 2 or 3 over the summer some years, and getting as high as a dozen or more after some good firm recruitment.

All Colleges operate under a parent group, be that a Barony, Canton, Shire, or any such geographic group. The relationship can, at times, be a tense one, with the goodwill of both sides being stretched by competing needs of the two groups. Ideally, a College should act as a feed-in system for membership in the geographic group of which they are part, and if done well, this can be a benefit both to the College and its parent group.

In my experience with the College, those new members who only get involved in College activities tend to drop out of the SCA as soon as they graduate, or sometimes as soon as the exam period hits, where those members who find at least one activity outside of the College to participate in, whether it's archery, fencing or heavy combat training, the group's A&S activities, or even being an officer in the parent group, tend to continue in the SCA for longer.

However, when encouraging College members to join the wider parent group, it's important that they not be encouraged so hard that they stop attending College activities entirely, because to bring in new members, a College has to have a reasonably-sized and friendly group of existing members, regularly attending the College's activities, otherwise you're left with a group of new people who don't know anyone in the SCA, which makes it hard for them to become part of the SCA.

One of the important things for keeping College members attending College meetings is there being regular, and interesting, activities at them, which is somewhat complicated to arrange at times, and shall be the subject of another post.

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