Inconsistent leadership on campus

Editor’s Note: This Letter to the Editor was submitted by Jacob Harberts, senior political science and global studies major.

Some institutions within UNI seem to have forgotten that leadership is an action, not a title.

Over the past few years, we as students have seen various examples of poor leadership in the Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG), and it seems the bad leadership within NISG has led to poor practice and leadership within the UNI administration.

For many years, NISG has been consumed in a perpetual cycle of power politics and impropriety. This cycle has led to ineffective and unfocused leadership at a time when the student body desperately needs good leaders.

Every year, the newly elected student body President and Vice President seem to come in and toss out all of the work of the previous student government, as if their predecessors accomplished nothing worthwhile. The executive transition period is wholly inadequate to actually preparing the incoming cabinet. When the new student administration takes over, their efforts are scattered into various initiatives they want to achieve as individuals, doing little to carry on with the projects of their predecessors. We see this happen in the Board of Directors (formerly known as the Lower Cabinet), and in the Senate as well. This dispersed effort overloads student representatives, leads to them getting shut down by UNI’s administration and causes many of these great initiatives to fade away. Through all of this, the UNI administration has begun to delegitimize NISG, be dismissive of student-led initiatives and patronize student ideas.

A most recent example would be the Waka Flocka controversy. A student organization brought a culturally relevant artist to campus and planned a great event, yet the administration, with no input from students, changed numerous plans and placed questionable restrictions on the event, all under seemingly false pretenses. This showed a complete disregard to students’ ideas and work they put into making UNI a better place.

UNI student spirit, anecdotally, appears to be fading. Enthusiasm and high regard for UNI have been replaced by feelings of animosity and apathy, and our declining enrollment numbers may be the best representative of that.

As young people, we’re told to go to school and make a difference in the world; bring about change for the betterment of society. Yet the very institution that teaches us how to do that doesn’t seem to think we should partake in change. As a student, this makes me think that the administration sees us as disposable; nothing more than a source of revenue. I want to believe that’s not true, but so many students have experienced the frustration of working with our unresponsive, ridiculously bloated bureaucratic administration that it certainly seems we mean little beyond the dollar.

NISG has to have an honest conversation with itself and ask if it will tolerate being dismissed by the administration, or if it will install good leaders who know when to lead and when to follow. Leaders who know how to combine the focus and efforts of various students, organizations and groups as a team. Leaders who will deliver a strong, consistent dialogue to UNI’s administration so the administration can address issues with students at the table.

The inconsistent and disjointed efforts of NISG makes the organization less effective. It is an organization where ideas rarely become reality, issues rarely become history, and students rarely turn to them for help.

Elected students need to carry on a consistent message across multiple student administrations, and they have to work as a team that puts students first and focuses on a few key issues until they are resolved.

We have to understand that good leaders don’t make the change — they organize and unify the people who make the change. Good leaders don’t have followers under them, they have teammates beside them. They put the needs of the team and the goal first. They ask for criticism, ask for guidance, admit faults and recognize they don’t always know the answer. They don’t encircle themselves with “Yes-people,” people who fraternize or people who seek glory. If you want to be a leader for the benefits, glory or power, you can seat yourself in the bad leader section. Leadership is an incredible burden because it is physically, mentally, morally and spiritually arduous. A good leader makes sure their team eats before them and will sacrifice their food for those whom they lead. If we want meaningful change, we need leaders who actually understand the meaning of leadership.

This article is not to say good leaders don’t exist in NISG, nor say NISG doesn’t do incredible things. So many hard-working, talented and innovative students join NISG and do great things there, but the absence of the leaders who bring all the power and strengths of NISG together is causing student voices to go unheard and issues to remain unresolved. We have to move past seeking the title of leader and begin to actually lead. We are the future of this world, we have a voice, we have ideas and we have solutions. Now we need good leaders.