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Duties of the Office

The Seneschal (masculine; or Seneschale, feminine) is the president of the group and is the group's legal representative and central point of contact for the world outside. Only the Seneschal may enter legal contracts on behalf of the group. Other responsibilities of the Seneschal, in a group supported by a full compliment of officers, include presiding over Populace meetings, tracking and reporting on group membership, submitting event request (including Kingdom calendar requests and event copy for publication), collecting event waivers and turning them over to the Kingdom waiver secretary, assisting event autocrats and local officers, and coordinating with local officers to ensure their reports are made on time, as well as acting as a liaison between the local group and the Barony/Kingdom. As the Seneschal is also responsible for the health and welfare of the group, it is the Seneschal's responsibility to account for group members and report their status to the Baronial/Kingdom Seneschal in the event of a natural disaster or outbreak of Plague in their geographical region. The local Seneschal also makes regular quarterly and annual reports in writing to the Baronial Seneschal. The annual report is called a Domesday Report, after the first census, and it should cover changes to the group over the past year, including which members have left the group, which new members have joined, the postal codes of members, what events and activities the group has done, and any initiatives the Seneschal has undertaken, as well as an honest assessment of their results. In cases of groups with fewer officers, the responsibilities of vacant offices ultimately fall to the Seneschal. The Constable, if you have one, is your deputy and reports directly to you, as do the Chatelaine and Web Minister, while all other officers are local deputies of their Baronial/Kingdom counterparts and report up their own respective chains.

Here on Battle Rock, I (Wilhelm Meis) have added a few other responsibilities that I feel have been helpful in keeping the group motivated and on track. These include local honors, Letters of Appreciation, and the Seneschal's Weekly Bulletin. The local honors of the Flying Pig (instituted by Lady Pipa Follywolle in A.S. XLV) for Arts & Sciences and the Phoenix Flame (instituted by Lord Adam de Ansetl Leah in A.S. XLV) for armored combat are complimented by the letter of Seneschal's Appreciation (instituted by Lord Wilhelm Meis in A.S. XLVI) for service. This is a presentation quality letter that may be given to members of the Stronghold at any Populace meeting to recognize them for their dedication and service to the Stronghold. The Letter of Appreciation (not to be confused with the Seneschal's Appreciation) is a simple memo in recognition of the hours of volunteer service completed by a member within a given month. Countable hours include attending Populace meeting, teaching classes or conducting workshops, conducting fighter instruction or marshalling tournaments, doing heraldic consultations, autocratting or feastocratting events, participating in public demos, and other time spent in service to the Stronghold or to the SCA in general. The Seneschal tries to track these hours, but it is also incumbent upon each member to keep the Seneschal informed of their own activities. The idea behind the Letters of Appreciation is that it shows the volunteerism of the member as expressed through the SCA in an objective and quantifiable way, which can in turn be useful for active duty military members and at the least offers a fair system of recognition. The Seneschal's Weekly Bulletin is a memo posted to the Yahoo! Group each weekend to inform members of opportunities and deadlines for the week and the next week or two, and usually includes a simplified listing of all scheduled activities for the next 30 days. This should be a brief digest to help members stay informed with a minimal reading requirement. I have also developed a Populace meeting agenda, which I have updated each month and posted to the Yahoo! Group in the final week before each Populace meeting.

Further Reading

West Kingdom Law (Article III, Section 4); SCA Corporate Policy (Section IV: Waivers-General, and Section VI: Waivers-Procedures); Society Seneschal's Handbook

Specific Competencies

The Seneschal should be generally familiar with SCA policies and Kingdom laws, as well as Baronial customs and traditions, as they apply to the local group, its operations and its officers. Specifically, the Seneschal should be familiar with SCA financial and waiver policies and be ready to oversee and assist the Constable in the execution of waivers at events. The Seneschal should be present at all events and Populace meetings or appoint a deputy for any event at which he/she cannot be present. Know who to call in the event of an emergency or injury and always report to the Baronial/Kingdom Seneschal as soon as possible afterward.

Reporting

The Seneschal presides over the local Populace meetings and files quarterly and annual reports to the Baronial Seneschal. Quarterly reports are due to the Baronial Seneschal by the first of March, June, September and December, and annual reports are due by the end of March. These reports should include the office held (local/baronial/etc), legal name, SCA name, mailing address, other contact info., as well as reports of membership growth, events and activities in the local group, emergencies or safety incidents during the quarter/year. Also be sure to include a list of current members and their postal codes, as well as a list of members who have joined or left the group within the reporting period, and also include any initiatives you have undertaken as Seneschal, along with an honest assessment of their results (include the pros and the cons). The Seneschal is responsible for collecting event waivers and sign-in sheets and forwarding them to the Kingdom Waiver Secretary within 30 days after an event/meeting/demo, so it may be a good idea to set yourself a monthly deadline (such as the weekend after Populace, when you are updating the Seneschal's weekly bulletin and posting Populace notes). Here in the Far West, we are granted permission to e-mail scanned copies of the original waiver forms to the KWS, rather than mailing in the originals themselves. In this case, the originals should be kept on file by the local Seneschal. In the event of a natural disaster, act of war or terrorism, or major outbreak of disease within the group's geographic area, the local Seneschal should contact all group members to account for their safety and well-being, and report to the Baronial and Kingdom Seneschal as soon as possible.

When Things Go Wrong

The Seneschal's main task is to keep the local branch running smoothly, so you must mediate conflicts between members and assist officers or other members if they are having any other problems. If an officer is unable to perform the duties of their position, politely offer to assist that officer, or if necessary offer to help find their replacement. Replacing an officer should be done as a last resort and must be done as tactfully as possible. In the case of any emergency, including such situations as on-site injuries, fires, typhoons or criminal acts, the Constable (if on site) is the officer in charge of working with modern authorities and maintaining public safety, but as always, the Seneschal is ultimately responsible. You should always have a back-up plan for any situation. Know when to involve modern authorities and how to get in touch with them at a moment's notice. No matter what happens, you must always stay calm and be ready to take charge, as others will look to you when things go wrong.

Contacts

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