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Thursday, October 14, 2004
The Perils Of Student Leadership
Many of your fellow classmates occupy a position of student leadership. If you are a 1L those are the positions you will be filling next year. Many good things come from being a student leader. You learn to organize time and material. You learn to delegate items so you do not have to do it all. You learn budget skills. You learn how to communicate with people that you want to be guest speakers. You make contacts. You learn to adapt. As a big fish in this pond you will learn what you are made of.
Being a student leader of any kind does involve sacrifices of time and energy. The higher level of position you have, the greater those sacrifices become. The pressure to be an active organization is high. The desire to get interesting speakers for the student body is also high. It is given that one purpose of student organizations is to provide new experiences and thoughts for you, the student body.
What is it like to be a student leader? Walk in my shoes for a day and find out.
7:55am Arrive at school and create one last email to the student body informing them of the lunch meeting and speaker we are having. Please note this is the last item in my prepared schedule that went according to plan.
8:01am Student Bar Association Secretary notices I am here and asks that I come to a breakfast starting NOW to meet and greet with a honored guest of the school who will be speaking the next day. As a general rule those in student leadership positions try to support each other. It is an unwritten rule. There goes for preparing for class.
8:02am Secure parking pass for my guest speaker.
8:05am Arrive at room where the breakfast is. Have an enjoyable conversation with someone who used to be on the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
8:45am to 10:06am Class. My speaker should arrive at 11:00am so I have less than an hour to review for other classes.
10:07am Try to get the free parking pass for the guest speaker and discover he has "just" arrived a few minutes ago. Unfortunately no one knows where he is right now. I now realize I have lost my guest speaker.
10:09am Wait by the elevators in the atrium. This was our prearranged meeting spot. After 5 minutes I still do not see him.
10:15am Go to the office of a professor who is a friend of my speaker. Perhaps he went upstairs to say hi?
10:22am Still no speaker in the faculty suite. Begin search of Inlow Hall. If I were a stranger in this building, where would I go?
10:27am Find an elderly gentleman sipping tea in the cafeteria. Apologize profusely for any mix-up in communication. Discover he is an easygoing person. As host I perform escort duties for our guest.
10:30am Escort guest to see his friend. I listen to two scholars discuss the interaction between international law and domestic politics for about a half-hour.
11:10am Go back to the cafeteria and purchase water bottle so my speaker does not dry out. I have a quick lunch as we discuss the topics to be covered during the lunch meeting.
11:40am Go upstairs and wait for class to get out so we can start the meeting. Wonder where the pizza is and where is the person I delegated that task to.
11:50am Start meeting, introduce guest, and tell the assembled crowd of 40 or so that I shall inquire about the location of our lunch.
11:52am Make phone call the person who was supposed to get pizza. Discover he has been very sick, is about to go to the doctor, sent me an email explaining that he could not get the pizza (which I had not read yet obviously). Nothing I can do about it now so I just roll with it. Explain that I am not mad and hope he gets well.
12:45pm Meeting has gone very well. Many seemed to like the topic. Escort guest down to the parking garage and make sure he can get to West Street.
Admittedly the above is an extreme example of how a day can go. Yet if you want to become a student leader you need to know that things like this can and do happen. At the time I felt like there was a hook just leading me around despite my best intentions. Many people in positions such as mine have natural tendencies to control things. That is the fun thing about being a student leader, you do have a limited amount of power, but you can not control everything. Just like in life. You can be a big fish in this small pond. You can learn many things that will help you in the real world. Yet the best lesson to learn for us as leaders is that the pond out there in the real world is far larger than Inlow pond. For those who will be replacing me and my other compatriots in the student leadership world soon: go for it, but do not take yourself too seriously. We will be small fish again once we graduate.