Some student organizations have reported a lack of communication from the Center for Student Engagement (CSE) after the director and associate director both left their positions in mid-September.
Before their departure, Aysha Dos, former director of the CSE, and Jaime Brown, former associate director of the CSE, served as the two highest-ranking professional staff members in CSE. Until the university hires replacements for Dos and Brown, Kris Nessler, who currently serves as the CSE’s director of outdoor education, will serve as the interim director, according to a university spokesperson.
Dos said she has been lucky to have worked with her CSE colleagues.
“Over the past 3 years here on the Hilltop, I have been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by amazing and talented colleagues,” Dos wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Brown did not respond to The Hoya’s request for comment.
The CSE works collaboratively with student organizations around co-curricular activities on campus. One of the CSE’s main responsibilities is overseeing the distribution of student activity fees, which provide over $1 million to various student-run clubs, as well as offering guidance to clubs and student organizations.
Christopher Boose, chair of Georgetown University College Democrats (GUCD) said GUCD has struggled to receive information regarding public health rules, CSE financial processes and travel requirements and restrictions after the departure of Dos and Brown despite multiple efforts to contact the CSE.
“The unfortunate truth is that communication has been low this semester. As the University has worked to just bring students back to campus, it sometimes feels as though little thought was given to how student organizations would operate,” Boose wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Their departure means we’re left with a void. Even when their positions are filled, it will likely be hard to fill in those shoes in the middle of such an uncertain period.”
Chair of the International Relations Club (IRC) Emily Hardy (SFS ’23) said the IRC has not received a replacement adviser yet and has struggled to figure out how to process receipts and rent vans from the Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching & Service, despite multiple attempts to contact CSE staff.
“I still don’t know who our next advisor is. There is a lot of uncertainty even on an operational level,” Hardy said in an interview with The Hoya. “Whose name do we put on forms? I have no idea, and if I have no idea, then all the people who are trying to work within club spaces who don’t have much experience also have no idea.”
While the CSE transitions its leadership, the university has taken steps to meet clubs’ needs, according to a university spokesperson.
“CSE is committed to continuing to provide quality advising to our student organizations and to re-establishing official advising roles in the immediate future,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We have responded to multiple requests for advising assistance from organizations that had traditionally worked with either the director or associate director; we will continue to work hard to provide this support while we fill those roles.”
Nessler did not respond to The Hoya’s request for comment.
While some clubs are upset about the short-term impacts of the leadership transition, others are less concerned about the long-term consequences.
Both Dos’ and Brown’s departures and the subsequent leadership transition will not drastically affect CSE relationships with student organizations, according to Matthew Failor (SFS ’23), chairperson of the Student Activities Commission, an advisory board for most student clubs on campus.
“Obviously, there have been some issues with the CSE on communication and stuff like that in the past, and that’s not going to go away,” Failor said in an interview with The Hoya. “Nothing’s going to get better because of this, but I don’t necessarily think anything’s going to get worse either. Use the resources that are there, use the staff that are left, and I think clubs will be fine.”
A university spokesperson said Georgetown is working to hire replacements for Dos and Brown and planning to engage students in the hiring process. The university has hired three new coordinators within the CSE, though the new staff members are still being trained, which may cause advising delays, according to a university spokesperson.
The university must hire people who will communicate with students to help ease clubs’ anxiety, according to Hardy.
“They need to learn how to navigate different club cultures, understand the needs and demands of different organizations and be fluid with what groups need,” Hardy said. “Being available, being there to help students and being willing to sit down with them and talk about how to make things work is important.”
Still, to Boose, the university must do more to help student organizations on campus.
“The University has failed to prioritize student organizations in preparing for this semester as shown by the difficulties faced by student organizations during this staff transition,” Boose wrote.