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The Provost's Handbook

Being a collection of tips,
advice, and observations about
How to Run a Borough
in the Barony of Carolingia

By Justin du Coeur
(Sometime Provost of Fenmere)
with help and input from
A Whole Lot of Other People

Last updated Sept. 28, 2003


So, you've just been elected provost of your borough, and have come to the startling realization that you don't have the foggiest notion what you're doing. Well, you're not alone in this -- lots of us have been through it. The purpose of this small book is to collect some of the accumulated wisdom on How to Run a borough, so that you don't have to make all the same mistakes we've made in the past.

(It's worth noting at this point that this booklet does not, in any way, represent official views of the Society, and doesn't necessarily agree with the views of the Seneschal of Carolingia. It's just some thoughts from someone who held down the post of Provost for a while, and who likes to help the boroughs run smoothly in the role of Deputy Seneschal / Borough Liaison.)

This book is always a work-in-progress. If you come up with new bits of wisdom about how to run a borough, come and talk to me about them, and maybe they will appear in the next edition...

What is a borough?

A borough is a more-or-less unofficial SCA branch, on a college or university campus. Boroughs were invented in Carolingia, and are only recently beginning to spread to other Baronies. The spelling of "borough" is fairly arbitrary; if you prefer to call yourselves a "boro" or a "burrough", that's fine. (If you call yourselves a "burro", however, people may get a little confused.)

As a borough, you are "official" only in Carolingia. Your group is not listed in the list of branches in the East, but you do get a seat on the Great Council of Carolingia (more on this a bit later). As far as the SCA, Inc. is concerned, each borough is essentially a household, located at a particular college. (Note that, as of this writing, this is all in a bit of flux, because the College of Heralds does not recognize the term "borough". So the exact status of boroughs may change sometime in the future.)

Reasons to be Unofficial

One common question is: why shouldn't we be an official branch of the SCA? Isn't that more prestigious?

There are several advantages to being unofficial. They include:

List of the Current boroughs

The boroughs currently more-or-less active in Carolingia are:

There have also been groups at other Boston-area colleges, such as Harvard (Duncharloch), Northeastern (Huntington Green), Boston College, and the University of Massachusetts, but these are currently inactive. If you are at one of these schools (or any other) and want to get things going there, write to me at and I'll be happy to help. There are reasons for the names of each of the boroughs, and stories behind some of them, but I'll refrain from telling them here; it's more fun to find out from the storytellers and older members...


As provost, one of your primary duties is to make sure that the students on your campus know that you're there, so that interested folks have the opportunity to join. Recruiting and Demos (the main mechanism for recruiting and publicizing) are practically an artform, and much of this booklet will be devoted to outlining some of the tricks and pitfalls.

Why Recruit?

Another common question is: why bother to recruit? Does it really matter if we just sort of forget about it for a year or two? After all, we've got lots of members in our class...

The primary reason to recruit is turnover. College groups are different from other branches of the Society, in that most or all of their members are transient. The average borough member is in the group for only three years. As a result, boroughs can collapse much more quickly than would other SCA branches.

Communication is a major factor here. Say that you don't do any recruiting for a year, then get a new crop in. Suddenly, you've got a group that is partly upperclassmen, who've been at this for some while, and know just how The Game Is Played, and a bunch of freshmen who are completely new and naive. That two-year gap is hard to cross, and more than one group has fallen into hard politics because the older members of the borough simply couldn't communicate with the younger. This doesn't happen quite so easily if you have a smooth spectrum of members in all the classes.

Empirical evidence says that boroughs follow a roughly eight-year cycle. They get founded, and ride high for a couple of years. Along the way, they get a little cocky, don't recruit much, and don't pay much attention to the younger members. Eventually, they get to a point where almost all of the active members are upperclassmen, and when those graduate, the group founders. After a couple of years of few or no active members on campus, someone eager comes along and restarts things, and the cycle starts anew.

Now, this cycle is not anything sacred, and can be defied. But to do it, you have to keep a constant eye on the state of the group, and make sure that you are thinking about where the group will be in two or three years. Today's small mistake can turn into tomorrow's collapse.

Finally, recruiting can help the SCA's image. Demos serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, they make us visible to the people who are appropriate to the SCA, and give them a way to join. On the other, they make us visible to the rest of the world, and help show them that we aren't some sort of fringe cult. (Really, we're not!) Keep both of these purposes in mind when you're running a demo -- remember that at demos, above all other times,you should never indulge in "freaking the mundanes", since those mundanes are the people who are going to be writing about you in the campus newspaper, and talking about your group over lunch. Look Good.

And don't panic. You don't have to recruit hordes of people; indeed, for many of the boroughs, there is such a thing as having Too Many Members, because it can make it very difficult to run the borough and get the members to events. If you manage to recruit three or four solidly active members from each class, you're doing just fine; that's plenty to keep the borough active and vital.

The Two Major Forms of Recruiting

There are two primary means by which people find out about the SCA: word-of-mouth, and demos. Both are important.

Word-of-mouth recruiting can also be called "friend of a friend" recruiting. This is when you tell someone you know about the Society, and they mention it to someone they know, who has coincidentally been looking for the SCA for years. This happens a lot. It can be fostered by making sure that the people in the other slightly odd organizations on campus know that you're out there. Groups that tend to produce substantial numbers of SCAdians include Science Fiction fans, gamers, actors, and any other groups that tend to attract lots of romantic intellectuals. You don't get many inquiries from this sort of recruiting, but a relatively large percentage wind up joining.

Demos are the primary means of recruiting, and are when you go out and tell the world that you're here. Demos tend to result in large numbers of inquiries, perhaps an order of magnitude more per year than word-of-mouth, but only a very small percentage of those who inquire will actually join. (In my experience, no more than ten percent of the people who sign an activity fair list will actually wind up joining, and frequently fewer.)

Types of Demos

There are three broad categories that most demos fall into. They are:

The lines between these types are blurry, but I will try to generally characterize all of them, and give some tips on how to do them.

Activity Fairs

Most schools have an activity fair sometime early in the school year. Some have different names for them -- MIT calls it the Activities Midway, and Harvard simply calls it Registration, but all have the same basic character. Each student organization gets to set up a table, and the students are, in some fashion, paraded around these tables. Sometimes this is restricted to the freshmen, but it is more often open to the entire student body.

Exactly when this happens and how it works varies from school to school. Some schools have a dedicated fair, held on a particular day or evening, which is publicized by the Student Activities office of the school. Others have the fair as an adjunct to Registration, allowing the organizations to set up tables around the entrance to the building where registration takes place. Either way, most of the freshmen, and some number of other students, usually come by.

Usually, the fair is held very early in the school year, almost always within the first three weeks. The competition between the various organizations can be fierce, because most students establish their primary activities within the first few weeks of freshman year. After this point, they tend to be too active in those primary activities to get seriously involved in other groups. (There are lots of exceptions to this, but it's true a surprisingly high percent of the time.) Do not count on the Student Activities office giving you adequate notice of when the fair is to occur; it is often the case that they will only get around to telling you on the day of the fair, and it has happened that boroughs have received no notice at all, and missed the fair. I recommend going to Student Activities sometime in the first few days of school, and asking them when the fair is to be; they will usually be able to tell you.

General Character of the Activity Fair

First of all, be prepared for noise. Nothing in the world is quite so loud as an activities fair, with every group on campus shouting at once. The decibel level is generally a little lower at outdoor fairs, but then some enterprising soul will usually get a speaker system and make twice the noise to make up for it. Rest your vocal chords the day before -- you'll need them.

You probably won't have as much space as you'd like; most fairs only allocate half of a long table to each group. Be prepared to have relatively little space, but also be prepared to expand if the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes the fair will give you more room, and sometimes the group next to you won't actually send anyone. As a general rule, if the fair has gotten into full swing and the table next to you is still empty, it's fair game to be taken over.

There will be lots of people at the fair. You'll have a substantial percentage of the populace coming by over the course of the day, which at some schools can mean several thousand people. Most of these people won't be even remotely interested in what you have to say. Most of the rest will be vaguely interested, but only slightly. Only a tiny percentage will be really interested, and you'll only recruit a portion of those. Be ready for this, and don't get discouraged.

The activity fair can be a lot of fun to work at, if you have the right mindset. It's an enormously energetic environment, and easy to ride through on an adrenaline rush. But remember to pace yourself: if you pour all of your energy into the beginning, and it's a five or six hour fair, you're going to be completely wiped long before the end.

How to do the fair

First of all, as alluded to above, be prepared to be noisy. Just to be heard, you may well have to yell a bit. At the least, get some practice in talking from the diaphragm, as if you were talking on stage. (If you don't know how to do this, talk to the mummers or heralds, and they should be able to show you. By talking from the chest, you can get a lot of volume without wrecking your voice.)

Sometimes, attention-getting gimmicks can be useful. At my first fair, where I initially found the Society, the provost had put his helmet on his lady, and was giving her an occasional shot to it. It was very strange-looking (and I wouldn't recommend it unless you know what you're doing and have a lot of room), but it got a lot of attention in a crowded hall.

Make as much use as possible of the space you have. Figure out how many people you can fit behind the table. If you only have a half-table, you can probably only have three people, but I've been at fairs where we've had eight people, and kept all of them busy. If you've got space, and can get one, bring a jongleur. At one recent fair, we had a harpist with a standing harp. He couldn't be heard from more than a foot away, but he looked great, and got a lot of people interested. If you have gobs of room, you might be able to set up a small fighting or fencing demo, but this can only work at an outdoor fair, and you will rarely have enough space even then.

Prepare a spiel in advance. Most of the people who will be wandering past want a sound bite -- they want to know what your group is, in thirty seconds or less. Figure out how to describe the Society very, very briefly, and practice it a bit. My spiel generally runs something like,

"SCA stands for the Society for Creative Anachronism. We're a world-wide organization, dedicated to researching and recreating the culture of the Middle Ages. We do all sorts of activities, ranging from medieval-style combat to cooking and dancing. In general, if it was done in the Middle Ages, and is worth doing, someone in the Society is doing it!"

You are going to say this over and over and over again in the course of the fair; it's not uncommon to have someone behind the table giving The Spiel once every minute or so. Don't make it completely rehearsed; if you're just reciting memorized lines, it will show, and it'll sound dull. Figure out roughly what needs to go into the spiel, and extemporize the exact words.

The Table

The key to getting people's attention, and holding it, is the table you have in front of you. You want to make it as interesting as possible, with a reasonably representative sampling of all sorts of SCA things. As I've said before, you probably won't have much room, but might wind up expanding, so bring too much and use what fits.

If possible, put together a reasonably large sign, and have some way to put it up. Some schools (such as MIT) provide posts that signs can be tacked to; for others, you will have to hang the sign down in front of the table. Try to make the sign as pretty as possible; if you have access to a good calligrapher, have them make the sign in blackletter or some such. I recommend not making the sign too large, because of stiffness -- you will sometimes find that the sign will only be supported on two points, and needs to stand up relatively sturdily on its own. Thus, I recommend a single full-size sheet of posterboard -- it's large enough to be seen, but small enough to be fairly rigid.

(And if you get a good sign made up, share it. A good sign can be used for all of the demos for all of the boroughs in a season, if you take good care of it.)

Here are some ideas of things that can be put on or around the table. If you have a small space (half a table), some reasonably small objects include:

In general, the best small items tend to be paper, like books and magazines. Be prepared for them to be handled, though; while I have yet to have a book damaged from an activity fair table, there is a certain amount of wear and tear from people picking it up and looking at it. You can't be over-protective of the stuff on the table; the interested people are going to want to take a closer look at all this...

Stuff that you might put out if you have a moderate amount of room (one or two full tables) might include:

If you have a lot of room (for instance, you're in a corner, and have some non-table space), put a full suit of decent-looking armor down on the floor. Or, better yet, sit it up against the wall -- you'll get some great double-takes, and lot of questions along the lines of "Is that real?". And, as mentioned before, if you have simply tons of room, you might have a small mock combat demo.

Use some imagination; there are always new and innovative ways to get peoples' attention. One recent innovation was pioneered by MITgaard -- they brought several pounds of honey butter and a dozen loaves of French Bread. Not everyone took a piece, but those who did tended to come back for more...

Talking to people

Most of the people coming by will walk past, stop and stare for a second, and walk on. Use some judgement -- if they look potentially interesting, say something like, "May I answer any questions, miladies?". (There is a tendency for people to wander around these things in clumps.) Many will just sort of mumble and go on. Many of the rest will ask, a little hesitantly, "What is this?". At this point, give the spiel. After this, most will wander on. If they don't, talk to them!

This is probably the hardest part of the fair, but the most important: striking up a conversation with a total stranger. Ask them what their interests are, and try to point out possible SCA parallels. If they're jocks, explain heavy list, fencing, and/or archery. If they're musicians, tell them about jongleurs. If cooks, tell them about cooks and brewers guilds. (Bear in mind, though, that brewers have to be at least 21 years old.) Try to have a reasonably current Guild Sheet with you -- these should be available from the Magistra. Tell them about your group's meetings, and suggest that they put their names down on the signup sheet.

However, don't press. The SCA tends to appeal to a lot of quiet, shy folks, and you don't get more introverted than a college freshman. If they just want to look at the stuff on the table, offer to answer questions and leave it at that. If they want to talk, they'll do it on their own time.

And be ready for someone to bounce up to you and say, "Oh, waow -- I just left Calontir, and was wondering where to find the SCA in Boston!" On average, this happens once or twice per fair these days. If you get one, make sure they sign the sheet, get their SCA name, and suggest that if they want to go get their garb and come help out, they're welcome to do so. Nothing grabs freshmen quite so effectively as a freshman...

The Sheet

This is one of the most important things for you to have, and one that is sometimes neglected. Be sure to have a sign-up sheet ready in advance, and make sure it's large enough. Be prepared to get a hundred names -- most fairs don't yield quite this many, but some bring in more.

The sheet should have columns for:

Don't try to control the Interests column too strictly; this is simply a place for people to express themselves, and often provides useful insight into the person who has signed up.

Start out the list with a ringer or two; that is, have a couple of people from the borough sign up, as if they were novices. No one wants to be the first person to sign the list, and it can languish for quite a while before some freshman gets up the nerve to actually be the first on it.

As I said before, be ready for lots of people to sign up. Also be ready to never hear from most of them again. Typically, somewhere between a fourth and a half will actually attend the first meeting of the borough, and a tenth to a half of those will come to the second. Don't let this get you down; it almost always happens, and is normal. There is a gradual weeding process, whereby people figure out if the SCA is really right for them. In most cases, it isn't.

Keep the sheet safe, and be prepared to use it. It should be put in the hands of someone responsible enough to deal with it. Set up the first meeting of the year quickly, and make sure that everyone on the sheet knows about it. You should wait no longer than a week before next contacting them -- as I mentioned before, people are quickly figuring out what they are going to be doing, and the window of opportunity isn't very large.

Demonstration Demos

The next sort of demo is the Demonstration Demo. (I know, this is sort of redundant. These are "real" demos, in the truest sense. However, the other types often have the term applied to them as well.)

Character of a Demonstration Demo

In general, demonstration demos are a lot quieter than activity fairs, since we are the only people there. You will be dealing with a much smaller number of students, but they will be somewhat more interested -- all of them will have made at least some effort to see this thing. You will almost certainly have more room, often much more room; it is normal for a demonstration to take an entire room, or even an entire field. There will be some amount of SCA-type activity going on, involving the public to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the activity.

Demonstrations can take a number of different forms. To illustrate, let's take three typical examples:

Fenmere has often had the Chapels Field Demo. For this, they abduct Fighting Practice on some Sunday afternoon. The fighters come to Brandeis, and do their combat out on Chapels Field, which is a centrally-located field that is right beside the main pedestrian road. Some non-fighters come also, and talk to the people who come by and gawk. It's pretty low-key for everyone involved, and largely unstructured.

Felding has, in recent years, tended to go with the Dance Demo model. For this, they get a dancemaster to run a semi-dance practice at Wellesley, sometimes abducting the main dance practice and sometimes not. The Barony at large is encouraged to come and join in the dancing. They take a large living room, and hold the demo on some weekday evening. There is generally a set of dances (mostly easy ones that the novices can join into), a talk describing what the SCA is and how it works, and some show-and-tell (people bring the same sorts of stuff as for the activities fair, but can explain it better to the curious).

Duncharloch tends to have the Roadside Demo. They set up something similar to a large activity fair area in a small grassy area by the Harvard Science Center. They get a bunch of people, and do a little dancing, a little music, and some combat practice. The grass is right next to a major walkway, so they grab the attention of the passersby, and get to talk to them a bit. With good weather, this is often a lot of fun, taking much of the best spirit of an activity fair without the noise and crowding.

Tips on running a Demonstration

Since these sorts of demos vary far more than activity fairs do, there isn't as much formula advice that can be given. But there are some common useful characteristics.

This is the most-often neglected part of running a demonstration, and perhaps the single most important. If you don't adequately publicize the thing, you might easily find yourself with considerably more demonstrators then demonstratees, which is always a little depressing for those showing off.

Make up a flyer. It should be 8 1/2" x 11", so that it can be cheaply copied. If you have access to a calligrapher, have it calligraphed. This flyer should give all of the essential information (group name, what's going to happen at the demo, when and where the demo is, and contact name and number), and nothing more -- a busy flyer will simply be lost in the morass of other flyers up around campus. Never underestimate the power of simplicity; a flyer with only the above information, plus something like "Chivalry Lives!" in two-inch-high letters can be very striking...

Make hundreds of copies of this flyer, and pass them out to the members of the borough, giving them the sacred duty of plastering the things all over campus. You want a thorough, even spread; if possible, everyone on campus should stumble across at least one of them each day. Have a bag of posting supplies; you'll need strapping tape to stick them on brick walls, masking tape (or, better yet, architect's tape) to stick them on non-porous surfaces without ruining those surfaces, and thumbtacks or staples to stick them on bulletin boards. If you can get away with it, stick some in bathroom stalls; this is a little underhanded, but it's great for getting peoples' undivided attention.

Check with the school regs, though, and make sure you aren't going to trip yourselves up. Some schools have strict regulations on where posters can be placed, and most have at least some places where posters are strictly verboten. Many schools will require that the posters be okayed and stamped by Student Affairs; this can be annoying when it defaces your pretty calligraphy, but you really don't have any choice.

Make sure that you notify all the appropriate people. If you have an activity fair list, make sure that everyone on that list gets flyered and/or called about the demo. Give a call to the campus newspaper, and make sure that they send a reporter down to the demo (and run a small blurb in the paper, if that's an option). Explore other means of publicity; for example, MITgaard can place slides in Lecture Series Committee shows. Be imaginative, and make sure that everyone on campus is at least vaguely aware that this demo is taking place!

Good Manners
Remember that many of the attendees of your demo have never had any contact with the Society before, and the entire Society will be judged on the basis of your manners. You should be on your absolute best behaviour here; try to keep a few of the following tips in mind:

Other stuff

Slideshows can often be useful, if you are indoors. A ten-minute presentation, with a decently entertaining narrator, can be a marvelous draw. However, you should be careful to keep it interesting. Don't let it become unbalanced: five minutes of tourney shots may be interesting to you, but I guarantee that it will bore your audience to tears. Have a couple of combat shots, pictures of a scroll or two, some feasting, some dancing, some shots of SCA play performances, and so on. Not too much of any single thing. Also, don't make the show itself too long; you want to finish before people start to fidget.

As with the activity fair, have a sign-up sheet, with the same columns as before. Encourage everyone to sign this, even if they signed up at the activity fair; the ones who come to the demo after signing up at the activity fair are strong potentials. And, as with the activity fair, if you encounter some existing SCAdians, encourage them to come help out.

Meeting Demos, or First Meetings

These are really the same thing; the first meeting of the borough each year is generally a pseudo-demo, and should be treated as such. At this point, you still have lots of people whose involvement is quite tentative, so the first meeting is generally a little different from all others.

Character of the Meeting

If the meeting is well-publicized (more on this below), it should be medium-sized. Typically, you'll get a substantial fraction of the people who signed up at the activity fair, generally between a fourth and a half; make sure that you arrange for a suitably large room, with enough chairs. Note that the size can vary wildly, and depends on how much publicity you do, how much notice you give, and what day and time you choose to have the meeting on. (On some campuses, even the building you hold it in can affect the attendance.)

The meeting is generally mostly or all talk; in it, you give people a feel for what the Society is, and what it does. This shouldn't run too long; 15 to 20 minutes will generally suffice to explain the stuff that the novice really needs to know upfront. You shouldn't go into too much detail on any one subject; explaining that our Royalty are selected by combat is good, but explaining the entire Royal Peerage system isn't.

The meeting is generally run ungarbed. You might have one or two people in garb, but not everyone -- you don't want the novices to feel uncomfortable. The key to this meeting is making people feel comfortable with the group, so that even if they don't come back, they at least don't have a negative attitude towards the Society.

Tips on running the meeting

Just as with the demonstration, the first meeting should be well-publicized. Make sure that people know that it is happening, and where and when. The same postering guidelines apply as for the demo, but don't use the same poster model; make sure that this flyer looks sufficiently different that people realize that it's new. Make certain that everyone who has already signed up knows about it, and has adequate notice -- telling them the day before is not sufficient.

It's sometimes useful to bring in one or two "guests" to talk about various subjects, particularly if you aren't comfortable as a speaker. But don't let them go off on boring tangents (as I said earlier, talk only briefly about each subject), and don't let them completely dominate the meeting -- remember, this is a meeting for your borough, and that borough's individual character should show through, to at least some degree.

Give an outline of what the SCA is, and what it does. Talk a little about the various guilds and activities. Mention the Royalty and Baronage, and show how the Known World is divided up. Talk about the practices that occur locally, when they happen, and how to get to them. Say a little bit about everything, but not much about anything. This is the speech that is intended to help the novices get a very vague sense of what they're getting into, as well as give them some idea of what they might want to do in the Society. Prepare an outline of topics in advance, but don't have a set speech. Above all, try to get people to ask questions. It's sometimes useful to have a few ringer questions, where a member of the borough asks something. All told, though, this shouldn't run more than 15 minutes of lecture, plus questions and answers.

Icebreakers are often useful. These meetings can be very stuffy, to the point of being uncomfortable even for the people running them. Think of ways to relax the tension. The best icebreaker I've seen was thought up by Grene, in Fenmere some years back. During the half-hour before the meeting started, the members of the borough were sitting around the room chatting -- and Grene was sitting on the side, being uncharacteristically quiet, blowing up balloons. When the meeting time came, the novices started to filter in. After enough had arrived, she suddenly started throwing the balloons hither and yon. Within seconds, the entire room had dissolved into a massive balloon fight. Period it wasn't, but it did an extraordinary job of breaking the tension -- it's very difficult to be uptight when there's a balloon flying at you...

As with the demonstrations, be careful not to condescend. It's very easy to fall into the mindset that these people are "newbies", and treating them accordingly. Don't do this. They're not stupid, merely ignorant, and your job is to cure that, as quickly as possible.

At the end of the meeting, you should have some sign-up sheets around. Yet again, try to get everyone to sign in. This time, ask for a bit more information, like phone number, mailbox, and email address; the people here are more likely to stick around, so it's worth knowing who they are. Also, have sign-up sheets for various "field trips". These are just the usual trips out to dance practice, fighting practice, archery, cooks, brewers, or whatever, but you will need to do a little more herding than you would later in the year. Make sure that these special-purpose sign-ups show the date and time of the activity you're going to, and make sure that you can provide some transport -- precious few freshmen have cars, and those that do don't know where they're going. Finally, also have sign-ups for upcoming events, particularly Falling Leaves, since that's the nearest thing there is to a boroughs Event we have.

General Notes on Demos

You needn't feel restricted to just these sorts of demos. Use your imagination; there are lots of ways to spread the word. Many boroughs are fond of taking the occasional in-garb picnic on a nice fall afternoon. Remember, though, that the above rules of thumb apply to these demos -- you're in public, and like it or not, people are going to judge the Society based on you. Show some decorum, and be friendly to the passers-by.

Also, you can (and generally should) do more than one of these. I strongly recommend having an activity fair table, then a demonstration, then a meeting, all within the first couple of weeks if you can manage it. Each addresses a different population, and shows the Society off in a different way.

Finally, try to help the other boroughs whenever possible. Each borough can usually hold its own for the activity fair, but there are rarely too many people at a demonstration. Offer to come and help with other demos. You'll help foster some goodwill amongst the boroughs, and have fun in the process.

The Next Step

[Thanks to Tibicen Blackmane for this section.]

Midways and public demos work vastly better if you can tell interested people what the next step is. If you just have them sign up and tell them "we'll send you more information", they may wind up throwing that further info out with the rest of the junk mail :). It's better to tell people "Sign up on our list, and show up at newcomers meeting, demo, etc. in such-n-such a place at such-n-such a time." I think we had a bit of this problem at Mitgaard this year.

Once you've convinced someone to show up, don't demo at them any more. Get them doing things: making garb, going to dance practice, finding a name, going to fight practice, etc.

If you're planning lots of activities, be sure you're very clear and explicit in explaning to your new people which are the important things to attend. Lots of other student groups expect their members to show up at all meetings, so newcomers might think we expect them to show up for everything, and decide that they can't make the commitment! Let them know which are the ones it won't really matter if they miss (say, movie nights, heraldry lectures) and the ones they will really need to be at (say, orientation meetings, garb workshops). It's not necessarily obvious to someone brand new which meetings are important to learning the ropes and which one are just for fun.

I would also suggest about one important thing per week works well. That means everyone gets together at least once a week, and no one gets run ragged. It keeps everyone in touch and doesn't burn people out.

While guilds are very important to Carolingia, and while borough meetings are the glue that holds boroughs together, and while Council may be a great place to meet people and get things rolling, the POINT of the SCA is Events. Get people to Falling Leaves.

By this I don't mean merely getting them physically onto site. I mean:

That's a hell of a lot to do, expecially considering that Falling Leaves is about 4 weeks away.

Running the borough

Okay, so you've got some members. Now what? Now comes the harder job: keeping things running smoothly. There are no set formulas for how to do this, but lots of little tips which I'll try to set out. The most important thing to remember is this: stay calm, and don't get into Evil Politics. As provost, you can do a moderate amount to smooth over problems in the borough. You can do a lot more to cause problems if you're not careful, though, so think before you act, and try to avoid making people angry.

The School Administration

One of the obstacles that you will undoubtedly trip over, time and again, is the bureaucracy. There will be times that you are certain that it was put there to make your life miserable. You might be right. But if you know how to deal with them, you should be able to keep your relationship cordial.

The key is to always be friendly, but never fully trust the administration. If you are friendly, they will at least try to help you out, and won't throw obstacles in your way deliberately. But always remember that student organizations are strictly a secondary consideration on every campus, and if it's you or a class (or, worse yet, someone who is actually going to pay money), you will lose. Be ready for this; there's not much you can do about it.

Most especially, remember the First Law of Bureaucracy: Get It In Writing. When you reserve a room, or get a budget allocation, or anything, make certain that you have it written down somewhere. This way, if something goes wrong, you can at least demonstrate that you had full reason to believe that you were in the right. The bureaucracy will lose your paperwork, now and then; having a duplicate copy will help you recover when this happens.

Make sure that the Student Activities office knows what we are and what we do. Make sure that they know that we do more than just fight; a historical research organization is going to get a lot more respect than a bunch of nuts who hit each other with sticks. Give them a copy of Forward Into the Past for their records, so that they have something to refer to when the supervisor asks who these weirdos are.

The school may require that you have a written constitution. Resist the urge to make this over-complicated. More than one borough has shafted itself by writing a constitution that required, for example, five officers, and then dipping in membership down to three. Don't over-regulate yourselves trying to draw up a rule for every possible circumstance. Do what you need and no more. Be careful about setting quorums -- in a small group just one person being absent means you haven't got enough people to do business. In the end, making sure that the work gets done is far more important (in a small group) than drawing up complex channels to do it.

Status as a Student Club

Your borough has two sides to it. On the one hand, it's an unofficial branch of the SCA. On the other, it's a club, probably a chartered one, at the college or university. You should pay some attention to your school's rules, because they may affect this dichotomy quite a bit. Some schools encourage branches of large organizations; some strongly discourage them.

(Note, however, that Carolingia does not care whether or not you are an official club at the school. It's entirely okay to be a Borough even if you aren't recognized by the school. It's often helpful to be an official club, to make it easier to get rooms and such, but it isn't essential.)

This is particularly relevant where money is concerned. The exact rules vary from college to college, but it is generally wise to never comingle SCA and college-donated funds. Most colleges will give some amount of budget to your club. I strongly recommend using that money only for borough-related expenses.

If you need money for an event or something similar, that will interact more with the Society on the large scale, talk to the Barony about it. Also, pay attention to what the college allows your money to be spent on. Some schools (eg, Brandeis) require that college-funded money only be spent on tangibles, like loaner feast gear and garb. Others (eg, Wellesley) only permit it to be spent on intangibles, like van rentals and event fees.

In general, I find it useful to think of a borough as a college club, whose purpose is to help SCAdians on campus do their thing. All of the members of this club happen to also be SCA members (whether paid or not), but when you have to deal with money and suchlike official matters, it's a college club, not an SCA branch. This is just a rule of thumb, but almost always helps clarify issues.


As provost, it would be very useful for you to be an SCA member. It's not strictly necessary, since you're an unofficial group, but it will prove convenient time and again. As a member, you get Pikestaff, which describes what events are going on, as well as describing any important kingdom-level news. At least one person in the borough ought to be getting this, so that the borough can stay in touch with the rest of the world.

Similarly, it is strongly recommended that the borough get at least one subscription to the Carolingian Minuscule, the Baronial newsletter. This lists events and happenings in the Barony, as well as describing what has been going on in Council. Invaluable for keeping an eye on what's going on locally. And it's a good idea for one or more people to be on the Baronial email list, which has frequent announcements of goings-on in the Barony.


It is useful for the borough to have regular meetings. I strongly urge that you have official meetings at least once a week, and that you publicize these meetings mildly (by putting a small note in the campus newspaper, or something like that). Having an official meeting on a regular basis provides at least a small amount of structure, and helps keep the borough in touch with itself. Many boroughs find it most convenient to meet for a little while just before heading out to dance practice; this has the advantage of making sure that some people will show up, but can encourage those not coming to dance practice to not show up. Consider the schedule, and plan a meeting accordingly.

Informal meetings are also a good thing. Several boroughs have lunch or dinner tables that they regularly colonize. This can provide a good place to just generally hang out and chat, and is good for making sure that the borough doesn't drift apart.

Keep the Borough Together

One important thing that you must bear in mind is the dual nature of a borough. On the one hand, it is like an SCA branch, and is composed of whoever happens to be at a particular college. On the other, it is like a household. A borough that doesn't hang together socially will eventually fall apart. You have the tricky job of trying to make sure that the borough works socially, as far as you can. You won't be able to cure every ill, but you can help by following some guidelines.

Try to know everyone in the group. If you don't even know who some of the members are, it's very hard to keep track of how things are doing. In particular, don't lose track of the underclassmen; it's very easy for a borough to split into the "old guard" and "new guard", and it's always at least somewhat damaging. The novices provide the energy that keeps the borough fun and vital, and the more experienced members provide a modicum of knowledge and wisdom about the Society works. Neither of these on its own makes anywhere near as healthy a borough as the combination.

Make sure everybody is informed of what's going on. It's no good having a meeting and deciding something if you're not going to inform those who weren't there of this momentous decision. This gets especially important when planning events (holding them or going to them). Have a newsletter and/or an e-mail newsletter (only for those who read it), and don't forget to call people. A human voice is more attention-getting than a piece of paper in the mailbox.

Transportation is a bigger deal in some boroughs than in others. When an event is going on, people need a way to get there. Even if it means making sure everybody gets on the right T, coordinate! This is especially important for new people. However, rides are usually preferable, considering all the stuff people lug to events. Make sure that if you beg rides from others, that you beg enough! Talk to everybody, and don't leave anyone out, even unintentionally. Some boroughs are lucky enough to be able to rent transportation from their college for a modest price. Once again, make sure everyone is contacted and everyone has a ride that needs one. Also make sure that the rides are doing what the passengers want to do. For example, if one student needs to be home after the event so that she can get up early and go to work, make sure that her ride isn't going to the postrevel. Nothing can cause problems within most boroughs quite so effectively as transportation mixups.

Encourage group get-togethers of various sorts. As well as the usual trips to practices, try to have the occasional gathering for your borough in particular. Garb is good for this: have some trips to the fabric district in Boston, and some garb-making workshops (bringing in some outside expertise, if necessary). Have some field trips to see periodoid movies. This sort of thing encourages a bit of group identity, which is useful in keeping the borough healthy.

However, keep in mind where the line between socializing and business is. You have to be provost for everyone in your group, and that includes the people you don't like. Sometimes it's tempting to "accidentally" forget to invite somebody along when the rest of the group is going somewhere, so you must decide if this is going to be a group social function or a private one. Personal issues should never interfere with the operation of the group.

Also, stay in touch with the other boroughs. Hang out with some of their people; you'll find that there are some interesting folk out there, and cross-pollination always helps the boroughs. Try to stay in touch with the rest of the Barony, too; some of us old fogies aren't such bad folk...


Running a borough, especially a healthy and large one, can be a lot of work. Don't be afraid to delegate some of that work! Have a treasurer, whose job is to take care of the money of the borough. (This isn't trivial -- at many schools, you have to deal with the student activities finance board, which can be some hassle.) Have a secretary, whose job is to take notes of anything important going on, and distribute that information to the people in the borough. Have a deputy provost, preferably one younger than yourself, who can help with the general administration, and who can take over next year.

(That last point is worth emphasizing. If at all possible, the provost of the Borough should not be a Senior. The ideal situation is that the Provost should be a Junior, there should be one or more Sophomores as deputies, who can step in next year, and last year's Provost should act as a sort of senior advisor, helping the Provost get through the hard parts. Don't hang onto power for too long; in the long run, it usually hurts the borough...)

Don't forget -- you are a college student, not just a SCAdian, and you have classes to pass. If you fail out, the hassles caused will be far greater than those that would have been caused if you delegated some of the SCA work out to other people...

(And don't be afraid to ask past Provosts for help or advice; many of us are happy to help when we can...)

Great Council

As a borough, you are entitled to a seat on the Great Council of Carolingia. This isn't quite as august as it might sound, but it is frequently useful.

You should try to send a representative to each monthly Council meeting, when that is practical. (For many boroughs, it is impossible to send anyone to the summer meetings, due to vacation; this is normal, and everyone is used to there being fewer borough folk during the summer.) Anyone can attend, and you may bring more than one representative to Council, but bear in mind that this is a business meeting, and isn't necessarily as interesting as most activities.

The representative has the job of reporting on the state of the borough. If there isn't anything new and interesting to report, it is entirely acceptable (and sometimes preferred) to just say "Hi, we're here". If the borough is running an event, or something similarly important, the representative(s) may be expected to report on the state of that.

The borough, having an official seat on Council, gets to vote if a vote is called. This is extremely rare -- votes occur, on average, about once every three years. When they do occur, they are very formal -- if you cannot attend, make sure that your representative has a note certifying that they have the power to proxy for you. Odds are that this will not be an issue during your tenure as provost.

Those are the official jobs of the representative. The important job of the Council rep. is to find out what's going on in the Barony. This is reported monthly in the Minuscule, but it sometimes takes several weeks for information to get published in the newsletter, which is sometimes too late. Therefore, the Council rep. should keep track of announcements and reports that are significant to the borough, and report them at the next borough meeting.

You should make sure that the Seneschal of the Barony knows who you are, and knows who your representatives are if you can't attend Council. The current Seneschal is Lady Eleanor Catlyng -- introduce yourself to her, and explain that you're a borough provost.

You'll want to meet the baron and baroness, too. Our current baron is Jehan du Lac. He can help you make connections with other people in the barony, and you can ask him anything at all. Feel free to introduce new borough members to him any time! Finally, Justin du Coeur (your humble author) is Borough Liaison, which basically means that I'm around to answer questions and help the boroughs work with the Barony; feel free to yell if you need anything.

Councils are currently held at MIT, usually on the first Monday of each month, at 7:15pm.


For some boroughs, an important part of the office of Provost is Ceremony. You are the ceremonial head of your borough -- that means that, for example, if the borough is called into court, you speak as the voice of the group. (Or are at least responsible for delegating someone to serve as that voice.) Some boroughs rarely appear in court; others do so more often. (For example, Felding annually presents the Felding Favor.) If you expect to be called into court, talk to the herald in charge about what you will be saying, and how to say it.

Baronial Resources

A copy of the Carolingian Guild Sheet should be enclosed in the booklet. If it isn't, make sure that you get a copy from the Magister. The Guild Sheet lists all of the guilds and activities in the Barony, and tells who the current contact people for them are. A list of most of the Guilds and Activities can also be found on the Baronial homepage.

Your job, with respect to the guilds, is that of traffic cop. You need to know how to contact each guild, so that you can tell interested borough members who to call. If possible, meet the head of each guild and practice, so that you can introduce them to members of your borough who are interested in their activity.

If the borough wants to look good within the Barony, consider arranging some group service. This shouldn't be mandatory for the members of the borough, but it can look very good if most of the members help run the lists for a large tourney, or clean the dishes after a feast. (The last is especially good for getting you slavishly grateful autocrats.)

Make sure that you know the Magistra, who is the officer in charge of new members. The current Magistra is Emmanuelle de Chenonceaux; she can provide you with packets of flyers that describe the SCA, and various activities within it. She can also provide you with advice on how to deal with new members, and what they need to know.

Above All

Don't Panic.

Being provost is a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun. It's an excuse to meet people, and learn a lot about how the Society really works.