Today is a day when I find myself thinking a lot about role modeling due to some campus incidents with a few good students making poor choices.
I don’t know how many of you have experienced this phenomenon, but I want to talk about the realization that our fantastic “Golden Children” of campus activities sometimes screw up. What do you do when you hear things about your programming board chair drinking her face off on weekends and narrowly escaping serious trouble with her RA? How do you react when a group of your orientation leaders violate alcohol policies when you aren’t looking? Tell me what to do with the student organization that has no “conduct code” but decides to elect a known “frequent flyer” in the campus judicial office to the position of parliamentarian? How about the group who appoints a student you know has been fired at a previous job for stealing money to the position of student government treasurer?
We need campus codes of conduct to assure that our campuses are safe, positive and open environments for students to learn and I know that all of us would agree that these codes represent some of our most fundamental community building frameworks. When these issues spill over into some “grey” areas in the campus activities world, I think it’s a bit tougher. If the president of the Caribbean Culture Club gets caught drinking underage, how does that impact her work with the campus activities office? Does it impact it at all? These questions are challenging. Add to that challenge the fact that most of us are advisors to these students and not supervisors and then there’s another layer of difficulty where holding students accountable is not as cut and dry.
In campus activities, we build capacities in our students for heroic achievements like role modeling, positive decision making, ethical leadership and so much more. If we teach it, we also need to help them learn it as well and approach this process knowing that some of these mistakes are part of the learning process. To me, asserting the importance of role modeling as a leadership concept is thrown out the window if we do not act when we believe a student leader’s ability to role model has been compromised.
On the flip side, there is no clear cut “policy” that says that a student’s employment history off campus should prevent them from running for SGA. Some also wonder if a student leader’s less-than-stellar “weekend choices” should influence our relationship as advisor and student as long as it doesn’t impact her work with the organization.
I’d love to start some discussion about this. Have your student leaders ever screwed up, or am I working at the only campus where student leaders are sometimes not perfect?