Letter to the Editor: Concerning LDR 2010

Boris Bastidas

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Recently there has been much outrage and discussion in Student Government over an attempt by Student Affairs to require paid elected officials to take a one credit course in introductory leadership, known as LDR 2010.  Not surprisingly, a good amount of these officials, including the Student Body President, Vice President, Campus Governor and House Speaker, refused to sign up for the course.

One of the sentiments held by members in Student Government is that leadership itself cannot be effectively taught in a classroom.  I have to say that I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills and traits while in leadership positions.  Much of what an individual can learn about what makes a good leader is sometimes best learned through trial and error, meaning that experiences ultimately shape a leader.

At the same time, I’ve participated in various leadership programs, trainings, sessions and even conferences.  There are all kinds of theories and skill sets and methods that can indeed assist individuals in how to deal with all kinds of situations they may run into while in leadership positions.  It is also known that there are in fact courses in management, public speaking, mediation, facilitation, and from an educational standpoint, teachers must go through a good amount of training and courses in Educational Leadership if they are to pursue administration positions.

But while leadership skills and concepts can be taught in courses or trainings, I find that requiring Student Government officials to take these courses is a stretch, to say the least.  I’m glad that these elected officials chose to take a stand, considering that neither the Student Government Constitution nor the Student Government Statutes make any mention of this course or even the concepts it teaches as being requirements.  SG already has GPA and credit requirements that when violated result in immediate ineligibility.

I’m sure we would welcome the idea that student leaders take a course in public administration or management, because even minimal exposure to the concepts in those areas can assist our student leaders.  We may even welcome the idea that these students take a course in writing or public speaking, again all skills that some Student Government leaders excel at, while others who need it simply do not.

More importantly, Student Government leaders allocate millions of dollars each year for both current and future projects, for program budgets that often feature as much advertising as programming, giveaways for students, apparel and other similar items for the student leaders themselves, new office computers, new office renovations, you name it.  I know this because I’ve allocated funding for some of these items as well.  And let’s not forget that this funding is paid for by activity and service fees that students pay.  Doesn’t sound like a bad idea for us to make sure these student leaders get at least some exposure to the basics of finances and financial management, does it?

That is the problem with this course.  It’s a great idea to want leaders to grow into even better leaders, and there is definitely a place for exposure to leadership skills, but this is not the way.  By now, Student Affairs should understand very well that Student Government officials are sometimes skeptical of these attempted mandates. This is partly because of a certain level of distrust of such attempts, often because decisions are formulated that try to impose something on student leaders without those student leaders having been in the process of making those decisions.  In addition, sometimes the same sources in administration that urge SG leaders to follow the Statutes and Constitution then turn around and try to mandate these requirements which are again nowhere to be found in either of those documents or in any University Policy.

At the same time, just saying no is not the way to go. Clearly, this is something that Student Affairs feels is in the best interest of Student Government, and this issue is not likely to go away. SG has identified the problems with this required course, but now it needs to come to the table and offer an alternative.

Each year, all of the elected officials from the fall election participate in a required training, while each Spring the newly elected President, Vice President and Campus Governors attend a leadership retreat that is usually joined by the House Speakers and the Chief Justice.  In addition of the club leaders on campus participate in required leadership sessions and conferences each year, and SIL offers all kinds of leadership programs like the Elite Owls not to mention everything that one can learn as an RA or as an Orientation Leader.  There is even diversity training, LGBTQA safe zone training, resume and other career related sessions, just to name a few, all offered at FAU.

Instead of requiring a course that must be paid for and uses a credit that can be used for actual degree requirements, Student Affairs and Student Government should come to the table and look to incorporate leadership skills and practices into the already established retreats and trainings.  Club leaders attend a daylong conference each fall on a Saturday, and if they don’t attend they’re club funding is frozen.  There is no reason why SG’s exposure to leadership skills cannot be improved without requiring this LDR 2010 course.

I challenge Student Government leaders to find and propose alternatives instead of just showing opposition to the attempt to require this course, because that’s the kind of leadership that can best make the case that requiring the course is simply unnecessary.

Boris Bastidas is the former Speaker of the Boca Raton House of Representatives.