Student, The University of Texas Law School
Former Student Body Vice-President, The University of Texas at Austin
As part of a Leadership Education conference, one of the key things in educating students on campus is providing support for student leaders and nurturing students from the time they come to the campus to grow in their leadership capacities, whether that be through the traditional areas of student leadership, student governance, unions, things such as that, different activities that have been around at universities for many years, to community service, political activism - two areas which have really grown in the last couple of decades, and especially in the last couple of years in terms of community service, in getting students involved in their community and trying to give back not only to their university but also to their community around them and learn about social injustices that are happening around them as part of their education.
Our panelists today are, first of all, Craig Rotter, who is a Ph.D. student in Leadership Studies at Texas A&M University. He received his B.B.A. in Management many years ago. He's like many student leaders, never leave their universities where they're at. I think that's something that's endemic of all of us. The last one is one who is - he ran to get some handouts that were left over at the LBJ School, but he's still an undergraduate. He still has yet to learn the method of sticking around. But Craig first received his B.B.A. in 1992 from Texas A&M University; worked in the private sector for a number of different banks in different financial positions there; then returned to the university, Texas A&M University, and received is Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics; received a Master's in Agricultural Education; is now working to a May receipt of his Ph.D. in Leadership Studies in the Agricultural Education Department at Texas A&M University.
While on campus, he was a student leader in many of the traditional student leadership organizations. He was the Chairman of the Student Senate Student Services Committee. He served on the Advisory Board to the University administration; the Advisory Board for the Student Leadership Retreat Center, which is a new center that they are developing at A&M; the Advisory Board for Parking, Traffic & Transit; and has also served on the Student Government Legislative Relations Committee at A&M. And he has remained involved, both in his prior undergraduate years and now in his graduate years, and is now trying to educate the next generation of student leaders at A&M, and has a number of students that are here today - two are actually in the room - who are his students in his classes that he teaches at A&M.
Our second panelist is Marlen Whitley. He received his Bachelor's from the University of Texas and was Student Body President in 1997-98. He continued the commitment to the University and began attending the University of Texas Law School, where he'll receive his law degree this May. He has been involved in a number of different activities on campus in addition to his student governance activities. He was one of the integral people behind the construction on this campus of what is the only statue of Martin Luther King on a university campus besides his home campus, his alma mater, which is Moorhouse College, on a university campus in the South. It's a really great tribute to Mr. King. It was unveiled last fall and I had the privilege of participating in that ceremony with Marlen. It's a statue that is very impressive. It brought everyone to tears during that ceremony. It's really a great, fascinating statue, if you go on our East Mall of our campus, if you have a chance to look around campus while you're here. He served an integral role in getting a student referendum passed and getting the statue constructed. It's totally financed by students. It was a total student effort. And he's also done a number of other things, as well, on this campus - too many to list.
Bart Cochran is our third panelist. He has just finished his term as the Student Body President at the University of Idaho. He will provide an interesting perspective from a school that is not in Texas - because we do things a little different here in Texas - and also from a school that is a different size. He comes from a smaller school than us. They have about 12,000 students total on their campus, including their graduate and law students at the University of Idaho. Both A&M and UT are the first and third largest universities in the United States. And he'll provide an interesting perspective on getting students involved in political activities, some activities that he initiated while he was Student Body President at University of Idaho, to get students actively involved in their state legislature on issues that affect them, because that is an increasingly important part of life for students, is interacting with our state law-making bodies, especially in public universities where so many of the activities that students are involved in are regulated by our state law-making bodies - everything from student fees to construction of new buildings and new facilities that students play a key role in for student activities.
So, without further ado, we will begin our panel. I'll tell you a little bit about myself first. I am a law student, a continuing student at the University. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Government and History this past May. I was Student Body Vice President last year on this campus and was Chair of our Student Fees Committee here on campus, and was a Resident Assistant for many years in our largest residence hall here on campus, Jester Center. A lot of people who are in student activities here at the University work their way up through the system through Residence Life, as they do on a lot of other campuses, and student orientation programs and such. If we have time at the end, I'll give a perspective from that aspect. So, without further ado - Craig.
Ph.D. Candidate in Leadership Studies
Texas A&M University
Well, howdy. I'm glad to be here. This has been a really good conference. We brought twelve undergraduate students from our university here and they seem to have really enjoyed it, too.
Coming from a university of about 43,000 students, we obviously have to keep the students pretty involved because otherwise they would have a lot of spare time on their hands, and you know what happens when a bunch of college student don't have a whole lot to do but study. They usually don't study and they usually find some things that tend to be negative, or go out and have too much fun.
We at Texas A&M - I'd like to start by telling you a little bit about our university. The university was founded in 1876 and was an all male, all military university up to about 1970. Upon that time, the Texas legislature decided that it would be best that we allow women into the university - it was a college at that time - and we opened our doors to women, which we that are there today have been very thankful for, and the university has grown tremendously. Up to about 1980, we had about 20,000 students, and then in the '80s we grew progressively up to the point now that we have about 43,000. We have over 700 student organizations on campus. Our students pushed this level of service. A lot of that came from the history of the university. With several people that served in the military throughout World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and even in the Gulf War, we have progressively had this idea the service is a huge part of the mission of the university and we've really passed that onto our students. So that's a little bit of our background.
The question that I was presented in coming here today was: Why do students wish to be involved on the college level? They could just sit and go to classes. They could do the negative sides that happen in college life. But why do they honestly get involved? And what I did was do a survey with our students, our current student leaders on our campus, to see what they thought. And some of the things that they said - first of all, one of the most important components in student life and being involved on a campus as a student would be the camaraderie and kinship. How many of you were involved in any organization as an undergraduate student? Okay. How about two or more activities as an undergraduate student? Quite a few of you.
When I teach my class, I'm very interactive. What are some of the things that came up or some of the things that you've taken from your life as an undergraduate in terms of being involved that have continued in your personal lives, that you've used from that point on? Anything? Any values? Anything that was instilled in you from that point? Anybody want to share? David?
Audience Member: I would say that my involvement in a few of the activities increased my public speaking ability and other just personal characteristics that I'm proud of.
Craig Rotter: Anybody else? Miss Watson?
Miss Watson: Well, I marched on the council when I was here because they [carried] the President. Those [word] of U.S.A. had been banned from the freshmen [word] because they said it was [word]. And I carried that rebellion with me all my life.
Craig Rotter: You agree, Mr. [Name].
Audience Member: She's a non-violent anarchist! [laughter]
Craig Rotter: Well, one of the things - and I'll jump to number two with what you said, Miss Watson. One of the things that our students said was that they really like the synergy, the sense of being a part of something much bigger than themselves. I'm sure that you weren't the only activist in that?
Miss Watson: Oh, no.
Craig Rotter: There were several people.
Miss Watson: Campus march [inaudible].
Craig Rotter: They said synergy, being a part of something big was something that they really enjoyed and something that some of you that are former student leaders have probable taken with you, and even coming to this conference, you've obviously pushed that onward in your lives. And so they really enjoyed that part of it in the sense of gaining not only tangible things such as the positions they were in, making things happen, if you will, but also the intangible things, the personal values that they gained from going out and meeting people and really working toward a common goal. That was one of the things that was mentioned.
The second thing is - the first thing that they talked about or was listed the most is the social aspect, the sense of getting together and meeting people and building this camaraderie. We have one student that came with us - we have two, actually, but one is here that's in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M. You want to share with us just a little bit about the camaraderie and kinship that you've gained in being involved in that?
Audience Member: The Corps really teaches you how to come together and work as a team. You know, basically like from your freshman year, they pretty much take away everything you have and start you from the ground, and build you all the way up to your senior year. And basically you can't survive without your other, what you call your buddies and your classmates. That bond you grow with them is actually amazing throughout your entire Corps career.
Craig Rotter: As some of you are very aware, the relationships that you build with people in college have probably continued - you probably still talk to some of the people that you've met in your college careers - your undergraduate, your master's degree and, of course, your Ph.D.s, those of you that have Ph.D.s - so that was something else that was mentioned.
A third thing that was mentioned by our students was, of course, the gaining and reinforcement of ethical principles: values such as trustworthiness; the idea of being honest in your actions; the idea of having integrity, which is simply being the same in all situations, treating people fairly; the third, of course, being very reliable; loyalty in being able to keep secrets when you're supposed to keep secrets; values such as that. They talked about respect, which is the sense of being civil. We heard that in quite a few of the speeches that we've heard thus far in this conference. The idea of being courteous to others, having decency. And also, making very informed decisions. And those of you that are in leadership education, I'm sure that you've passed that onto your students and make sure that they're aware of what's going on in the world around them.
Another thing that was mentioned by our students at Texas A&M was the sense of being responsible, of being accountable for one's actions and taking not only the credit, which is something that many people like to take, but also taking the blame when things go awry. I'm sure that you, Miss Watson, faced quite a bit of negative press, et cetera, from when you were doing that on the campus here, is that correct? Were there people that were against you in that?
Miss Watson: Well, actually, I don't remember that. I remember thinking at the time, if you really believe in something, you've going to have to stand up for it. You don't have to be aggressive about it but you have to be heard [inaudible], otherwise change doesn't take place. You just can't sit back and let the status quo go. We didn't effect any change at all but I did find out years later that those [word] ended up being a very Goldwater Republican [inaudible, chuckling].
Craig Rotter: But still, you were responsible for taking whether it was going to be blame or credit in your actions.
Miss Watson: I did [inaudible] and I'm trying to do that even to today, but sometimes I get in trouble.
Craig Rotter: Another value that was instilled in our students they felt was fairness, developing the ability to be involved in a process that's both impartial as well as very open. Obviously, in the world today, there are a lot of factions that tend to be very close-minded, and the sense of going out and doing great things, the sense of being involved on campuses, has allowed the student that are involved to be much more open-minded and not necessarily having favorites, including people, especially in our school, coming from small towns that may not have historically including certain people of different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, and even some gender issues. And hopefully that is erased or their minds are changed in being involved with people that they have never been associated with prior to walking on campus and being involved in a student organizations.
Something else, of course, is the sense of caring, and to me that's the most important factor that they've gained. That's having a sense of a true - having a heart of ethics, realizing that your number one priority in life should be to take care of your fellow human being, as well as having a genuine concern for the welfare of others. Many feel when they have concluded their lives as a student leader, feel that they have gained that, or if they had it before, they've enhanced that ability.
Then another, of course, is citizenship, which is one that I think when you gain - especially those of us that had to campaign for our positions - a sense to know what the process is. Especially in America, knowing the sense of what it takes to run a campaign; what it takes to be involved in a voting process; and how important that is if you're going to make change, which of course is what leadership is all about. And also having a sense of civic duties in not only voting but also volunteering, something that was gained by student leaders.
A fourth one, of course - this is a minor one in my mind, but getting involved in things that take away from the monotony of just doing the same thing over and over and over. Many students, when you come to campus, of course, you're not used to the changes that take place in your life. Some may have a tendency to go into a shell and not participate. It's easier to block out the world and to stay to yourself than it is to go out and meet new people and make the changes in your life even bigger than they would have been had you not done that. And so another reason that they get involved, of course, is to take away the monotony of just going to school or, in the case of many of our students who are employed in today's time because of the cost of higher education, also it takes away from the monotony of having a student worker job where obviously they're probably not paid that much.
And the fifth that was mentioned by the students at Texas A&M is gaining skills that are valuable in the workforce, resume building, which many - when I talked to them after the fact of doing the survey, they admitted that that's probably a large part of why the get involved initially, but after the fact, once they get involved and realize that there are more things to their involvement in terms of the values that they gain, they continue to get involved in more and more organizations and that's not as big of a factor as it was initially. Of course, the quality of life as a student who participates in collegiate and student leadership is enhanced by their involvement.
And one thing that we do at A&M, and one of the things that I handed you was a syllabus. How many of you teach classes in Leadership Education that are here? What level do you teach in terms of students?
Audience Member: Undergraduate.
Craig Rotter: Undergraduate. Classification? Any?
Audience Member: It's the same thing but with my assistant.
Audience Member: Undergraduate.
Craig Rotter: So it's open to freshman through senior?
Audience Member: Yes.
Craig Rotter: What about you in the back, ma'am? Do you teach any courses currently? No. You, sir?
Audience Member: I teach in a graduate school.
Craig Rotter: So you teach graduate students. I teach a course with 120 students in it a semester, junior/senior classification. And one of the things that - I taught a sophomore level course, the same course but to sophomore student leaders, last year, and what we found in the research that we did is that their leadership perceptions - their perceptions of themselves as leaders - was enhanced by them being involved in their leadership activities but also in taking a theoretically- based leadership course. And we felt that it was wonderful to teach students at a sophomore level about leadership theory because they would have two more years to use these practices that we've talked about in class in a safe environment where, if they do something wrong or don't follow some of the models that we talk about or make mistakes, that they're not punished as you would be in the real world. So we give them two more years to practice what we preach to them, if you will. And if you want to look through this syllabus, you're more than welcome.
We teach a lot of the topics that are popular in leadership today. We go through defining the term "leadership." We go through the history of leadership through the 20th century with Great Man Theory, Trait Theory. We go through the leadership styles. We also work through Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model. We talk about motivation. And we do certain assignments. The way the class operates is that we have lecture for 50 minutes on Monday and Wednesday, and then we have an experiential lab on Tuesdays. And in the course that I'm currently teaching with 120 students, I have four TA's that teach the labs on Tuesday, and it's [a nose] that they practice through various exercises what was talked about in the two lectures during the week. We talk about creativity. We go through transformation and transactional leadership, and of course ethics and trust, decision-making, team effectiveness. And we look at some of the newer models. We talk about Greenleaf and Wheatley and Singhi.
And we feel at Texas A&M - of course, a lot of this stuff is fairly new in terms of leadership itself being a discipline with a degree, et cetera - but we have a degree called Agricultural Development, and that's where the majority of our student leaders have come from for the last 10 years. What we've learned is that if you include a theoretically-based leadership course with the practices that the students do as student leaders, that their experience as a whole is improved and they go off and do great things later in life. We're hoping to do a survey of students that were leaders in the last 10 years that are out there in the workforce now to see, as the things that you mentioned have helped you in life, to see whether or not those things are helping our students, and to see if they're actually using the stuff that we talked about in class.
Two other things that I provided you today are the student organizational handbook - I thought it would be nice for those of you that are working on collegiate campuses to see what we offer at our university, to see differences in the activities that you have on your campuses; I hoped that would be nice. And I also included a calendar to show how busy a semester gets on our campus. I think it's nice to share with one-another things that go on on our campuses.
One last thing that I provided you in this packet was a copy of the first assignment. Yesterday in one of the lectures or presentations that was given, the one on Higher Education, a lot of talk was given from Lieutenant Colonel Snook about reflection and how important a piece that's becoming, although controversial at West Point, and we've also included that in our class. And I think that in talking to the student leaders on the campus at Texas A&M, we don't spend a whole lot of time - because we're so busy, and I guess you guys know what it's like to be terribly busy with your careers - but they don't spend enough time reflecting on what's going on in their daily lives. And so what we've done in this class in incorporate that, hopefully time to actually sit down and reflect on what's going on around them. And hopefully they will take that away from the course that we teach and use that in their daily lives and in their positions as student leaders.
Thank you for having me.
Bart Cochran: Thank you, Craig. If you just keep track of your questions that you might have, we'll have a Q&A session at the end, after everyone gets through. Next we have Marlen Whitley, who is going to tell us about the next step. Craig has identified a lot of the things that motivate students to get involved and how student activities and student academic programs can get students involved on their campus, and Marlen is going to talk to us about turning motivated students into ethical leaders among their peers and beyond.
Student, The University of Texas Law School
Former Student Body President, The University of Texas at Austin
Thank you. I want to begin by thanking Eric for inviting me. He extended an invitation to me s ometime last semester and I figured that meant one of two things, having worked in my administration: Either he was pleased with the job I did or he was going to hold me up as a model of what not to do as a leader! I'm not sure which point you're having me here for, Eric, but I appreciate the invitation nonetheless.
I want to begin basically by explaining a little bit about myself and my background. I think it will help you understand better where I'm going towards in my presentation in terms of motivating students, which I have found in my tenure here at the University to be one of the most challenging aspects of leadership, whether you be faculty, staff or another student leader, is to encourage students who see no vested or personal interest in getting involved in student organizations or student activities and encouraging them otherwise.
I come from a family of three. I'm the middle child, only boy, sandwiched between two wonderful sisters. However, I could not say that about them in my younger days when they were beating me up until I outgrew them! I'm a first-generation college graduate, which I have found myself not to be alone here, but I think that it's significant in terms of leadership and just understanding the entire collegiate environment for students here on this campus. What you'll find and what I've found in my experience is, my personal experience is how I view the campus, what I expect out of a college education, what I expect out of student activities, and what I try to put into those activities differs somewhat from students and peers of mine, who tend to be children of college-educated parents, second and third generation college students. I don't have any empirical data to support that but I will give you my word and hope that's fine just to know that those experiences are something that are unique, that can kind of help you catalog or work with different students in whatever capacity they see a need.
Having said that, I came here to the University out of a high school. I was one of maybe 15 African-American graduates out of a class of 600, Winston Churchill in San Antonio. So coming to the University was quite an overwhelming experience for the reasons I mentioned before: Being a first-generation college graduate, but simply being a small fish in a big pond. That is an experience that crosses racial, gender and ethnic lines. I think many students come to either Texas A&M or The University of Texas looking for a niche or some way to kind of make themselves feel comfortable. And so for me, it was kind of getting involved in what felt most comfortable to me, and initially that entailed volunteering in some capacity with, at that time, the Minority Information Center, at which time the Student Government appointed me to serve on a Minority Recruitment & Retention Committee. I say that because I felt that having been recruited to this university, I felt a duty to lend that same hand back to students who came from similar walks of life as myself.
What I have learned here - and I have a brief outline, so I'll run through this and if you have any questions about it, we can entertain those later - is determining - well, I have been able to determine what leadership, first of all, is not; what leadership is; some of the challenges I faced; and some of the recommendations for involvement.
First and foremost, I would say that leadership is not self-serving. My background probably differs from most other students leaders' in that I am, in addition to being a student, at or a little before the time I started getting involved in student government, I began accepting my calling to the ministry. I'm a Baptist minister, and so a lot of my leadership, ethics and principles derived from a Judeo-Christian perspective on leadership that has been taught to me. So I began by saying that leadership is not self-serving. I know that the biblical principle is that to serve - to work for the least of these is the principle that I embraced throughout my tenure here. And so instead of working for causes that seemed to get - that people jumped on the bandwagon - I was much like this young lady here, often fighting for ideas that may tend to be least popular, sometimes a little controversial, but what I felt were right nonetheless. And so in that sense, I kind of had to remove myself out of a lot of situation and try to assess, going into any situation, what would be in the best interest of students and not what's in the best interest of Marlen.
Another thing I've learned, that leadership is not easy. I don't care what the situation is, whether it's trying to change the menu in Jester Cafeteria, trying to arrange for televised football games, of away games at the South Mall Stadium, or simply trying to print T-shirts for Spirit Stampede; at some point in time, you're going to run up against a brick wall. And so in terms of being a leader, it's important to not wear your heart on your sleeve. I know sometimes in my younger days, I would take things personally when program results didn't go my way, but as I matured, I learned that, like my mother always taught me, that anything that you want or anything that's worth having will not come easy. And so what that would require was more work from me to kind of collaborate with other leaders, like-minded people on this campus, to get simple tasks done and then work for the larger issues.
Leadership, for me, at least, has never been complete. And I say that, I've often been - and Eric can probably attest to this. For some reason, after I was fortunately enough to be elected Student Body President, I became a consultant to every campaign thereafter, for good people, obviously. I didn't mind it, but after the first time I sat down and thought a little bit more seriously about the advice I was giving out, more than just how to win an election but how to prepare or how to equip these students with some principles or some ideas that would last and pass through the election and on, just life skills, general life skills. And one of the principles I tried to drive home was that no matter what you do, especially as a leader and student on this campus, you may never feel a sense of completion, and that's okay, because the time that you're giving is so small. You have to work with what you're given and keep in mind that so many of the luxuries that we enjoy on this campus, whether it be the shuttle buses, the recreation center, the new Gregory [Jam] or just general classroom facilities, came as a result of students long before us at some point in time. We may have picked up that now and ran with it, and we're going to have to pass that torch onto someone else. So there may not be that sense of completion in any tasks that you involve yourself in, but at the same time, knowing that once you involved yourself with a program or idea that's worthwhile, just your time working on it is one step further that's going to benefit someone else down the line. So even if you never see the open manifestation of what you were working towards, know that in the long run it's going to benefit someone.
Now that I've established at least what I feel that leadership is not, I'll elaborate a little bit on what I believe leadership is. When I came here as a freshman, I joined a fraternity and I had the privilege of receiving a copy of a very inspirational piece that I still carry and keep with me in my heart today. That's a poem by Rudyard Kipling entitled "If." Just a show of hands, any of y'all familiar with that poem? I don't know how y'all feel about it but I think it's a remarkable work, more than just a few rhyming words on paper. I think this, to me, probably embodies a model of leadership that I really felt that I needed and could share and pass onto others, because form the first stanza on through the end, it talks about dealing with doubts, dealing with fears, dealing with disappointment, dealing with triumph, dealing with dreams, and how to make all those ideas, how to make all those aspirations and even the good and bad things come together to work for not only your benefit but for the benefit of others. So I'll share that. For those of y'all who aren't familiar with it, I'll share it with you afterwards.
And so, having said that, I've deduced that the greatest attribute of a leader is the ability to build up other leaders. When I talk with students about student government and other different student organizations on campus, whether it be campaigning or just generally getting involved, I've tried to communicate the idea that, for me, defining your success as a student leader is not about what new building can go up and have your name encased on a plaque outside of the building; not what new programs you can get in place and everyone knows that you had a significant role in it. For myself, if my name was never mentioned again, I would be completely satisfied just knowing that people like Eric, people like Darren Roberts, [Percival KE], Annie Holland, who stepped into those positions that I once occupied and thought enough of me to get involved and buy into what I was trying to do on this campus and tried to carry those ideas and principles on - to me, that's the ultimate sign of my success. That's a manifestation of my success, not that I had a direct role in influencing them in doing what they have gone on to accomplish, but rather than they really believed enough in what I was doing - not me, but what I was doing and what I was attempting to do - and thought enough of themselves to jump into that position as well.
And so in terms of leadership of students, that's how I define it. It may be challenging because, particularly as younger students, we like to see a tangible manifestation or tangible results for what we get involved in. For our efforts, we need to see a physical result. And so sometimes it's hard to communicate that idea to students, but I think once students get involved and recognize the challenges of trying to get things done in such a small window of time, they can appreciate better knowing that just the idea of being involved in something greater than yourself is reward enough.
Leadership is knowing when to follow. I came here and once I got involved and started sitting on various committees, I initially had the urge - okay, I felt like it was a one-day crash course. It's like, "Okay, I'm ready to go. Go ahead and jump right in there." But what I began to understand is that he who leads must first follow. And so that, too, takes a bit of a self-serving idea, a self-serving element out of you, because you recognize that, regardless of whether you know it or not, at the age of 17 or 18, you don't know everything. I know for a lot of young students or teenagers, particularly, that challenge is always there. So knowing when to follow and knowing who to follow will better prepare you, knowing when to step up and when it's your turn to lead.
The definition that I gave once I got elected - I took a line from Rudyard Kipling's "If" that said, "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings nor lose a common touch." What that meant to me was that - and I told the reporters that the only thing that separated me from every other student on this campus was the title; that to me, that office was the ultimate embodiment of community service; that I had been elected to serve the community, not to rule over it. And so just having a clear understanding or perspective of what the leadership role is or defining it in a term that doesn't amount so much to power or prestige but amounts to something like service and sacrifice can really help shape the hearts and minds of people who are coming after you.
And also what leadership is, it's knowing that you're not always going to have the solutions but you have a willingness to work towards them, and that kind of follows in line with what I said before about not always having all of the answers. But Eric can attest to this - and I served as an R.A. as well, in Jester and Moorhill dormitories - and what I learned in those positions is that when you're looked up to by other students and younger students, more often it's more important to be more resourceful than knowledgeable about any one thing. And what that meant is I can't give you the answers but I can certainly point you in the direction where you can get answers. And so that's one of the skills I learned as being a Resident Assistant and something I've kind of carried on into my other roles.
Also, some of the challenges - particularly never being able to please everyone all of the time was for me one of the hardest things to learn, especially - and I'm sure others who enter into a leadership capacity with a very altruist idea of wanting to get things done and a sense of accomplishment, and making sure that people are happy - recognizing that any time you step into a role, whether you're President, Vice President or just in the community, that your ideas and the actions that you take aren't going to please everyone. A specific example of that for me probably came about the time, soon after I was elected, at the beginning of the Fall semester - and Eric probably remembers this, and some of you may remember - when there was a professor here at the University School of Law that made some disparaging comments about Mexican- American and African-American students. At that time, I was serving as President. His comments made national headlines. I was faced with the position of, one, addressing him as Student Body President, but more importantly, being a member of the affected or the group that had been offended, the offended group, if you will, or felt a sense to respond then. And so the challenge for me was, how do I distinguish or how do I separate out those roles of Marlen as Student Body President from Marlen, the African-American student who was offended? And having received counseling from a number of people, recognized that I didn't necessarily need to separate those roles, especially doing what I thought was right, partly because a number of the constituencies that I served were affected by it, be they white, black, brown or whatever. And so stepping in the position to do what's right is how I'd need to position the stance that I took, more so than trying to respond as an African-American. I felt I did what was right at the time.
And I can still remember the caption - one of the magazines took a picture of me about like this, and it said that Marlen reflect before he speaks to the crowd. I said, "No, I was praying because I really wanted some divine intervention or some guidance on how to address such a sensitive situation." As a result of that, I received a lot of criticism from the Editorial Board, which is two or three people at the time. They didn't like me or a number of other people on this campus, so I didn't feel too bad. Initially I felt a little hurt by that because I felt that if they were in my position then they would have done the exact same thing. And then I posed a question to them: "Well, then, what would you have done, had you been in my position? Give me some guidance. Give me some insight on how I could have better addressed the situation." And they couldn't. And that's when I realized that more so, I was not leading with my heart; I was doing what I felt at the time was right. And so I didn't back away from it and continued to draw criticism, but I learned to take the good criticism with the bad and just chalk it up as an experience.
Audience Member: I remember that picture [inaudible].
Marlen Whitley: Oh, gosh. My initial response, because I was blind-sighted in the press conference with it - I told them that I was always taught to never dignify an ignorant comment with a response. That was initially before I had heard what he had actually said. And then at the rally, the student rally that we had, my response was not calling for a firing of Professor [Braglia] but a call to ask for an apology. We did file a racial harassment complaint against him and stated at the time that the University needs to continue to preserve, protect and support its efforts to diversity the campus. The criticism was that I was only speaking for one-half of the campus, or I was speaking for a small constituency and not - I should speak basically - either not say anything at all or not say anything against Professor [Braglia].
But like I said, that's kind of a segue to my next point: picking and choosing their battles. Certainly I learned from that experience that there are so many - once I stepped into a leadership role - we all have our nice agenda laid out and scripted, but oftentimes, once we're situated in a particular position or role, our agenda is going to be given to us by students. It would be nice if we could kind of stick to the ideas and principles that we want to work towards. A lot of times you have to be flexible and work with the issues at the time, and for me, that whole year was extremely turbulent. It terribly detoured me from what I initially thought I'd be working with. But I learned from that to pick and choose battles. I'm not going to be able to fight every battle. Even if something like that is offensive, there will be a point in time to address it but it may not be my point in time.
And like I said, defining the success, looking for tangible results - that the whole process of leadership is a journey, not a destination. And so not to look that you've arrived at any particular place but that you're always learning and growing.
And finally, on the last point of involvement - and I'm sure you've heard this. The three types of people paradigm: there are people who make things happen, people who watch things happen and people who sit around wondering what happened. And so those are going to be the types of people that you're dealing with. Generally for getting things done, it's going to always be a smaller percentage of the people. So I guess as leadership educators, probably one of the things you have to work towards is trying to capitalize and maximize on that talented 10, or that small percentage that you have to work with, and get the most out of them, and hopefully others will see the light and catch on.
And finally, I'll end and say this. Leadership is not about titles; it's about talent. Students, especially if they're like myself coming in, they'll look and say, "Well, I'm not a leader because I'm not a good public speaker; I'm not a good organizer; I can't write that well; I'm not tall," whatever. They'll find some element that's closely identified with being a successful leader and automatically count themselves out. So knowing that it's not about the title that you have; it's about the talent. Whatever talent that is, if you work well with others, if you can draw, if you can write, if you're a good organizer, if you can motivate - all of those are elements that are, at some point in time, needed. And like Craig was saying, it's about the synergy; it's about being a part of a whole. That goes back to the idea that leadership is not self-serving. So to the extent that you can communicate the idea that everyone has something to gain but also something to contribute to overall leadership on campus communities, I think the quality of student life is all the better for it.
Eric Opiela: ... first year I ran, I ran against him on a different ticket.
Marlen Whitley: You learned!
Eric Opiela: But I learned. The year that I served in the Student Assembly, it was a very trying time for the University and Marlen really inspired a lot of student and people outside of the University as well through his great example in ethical leadership.
Our next speaker is Bart Cochran. I have some handouts to pass out. He just finished his term as the Undergraduate Student Body President at the University of Idaho, and he will speak about turning these ethical leadership skills into something larger than the university, than leadership at the university - engaging students in political activism.
Undergraduate Student Body President, University of Idaho
I guess I could probably start by explaining sort of how I got here, because demographically I'm the oddball here. Craig has given me a pretty hard time about being the Potato State but he doesn't know what an Idaho potato is like.
Actually, the first time I ever met Eric, we were at the National Student Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. We just so happened to be roommates. At one time we just kind of ended up - I think we kind of hit it off because we were both kind of techie geeks and we both had Palm Pilots and we were beaming stuff back and forth. It was kind of a dorky moment. But Eric and I kind of butted heads when it came to political activism and students. I don't know how much of this he actually remembers but I certainly remember it. I was young. I got elected as a sophomore to Student Body President, so I've got actually two years left of school. But I still have this idealistic viewpoint that students could really do anything; that students could change the legislature. If they could pass legislation, then they could do anything. And I was just in the process - it was the second semester of my term in office and I was just about to start a big campaign to get students registered to vote for the election, and I thought that I could get students registered to vote. I could make sure that they were a large constituency of the State of Idaho and make those legislators listen. And Eric had already been through that. He had already gotten students registered to vote and already attempted to try to sway the legislature. And so that's where we came from two different points, where he had already done it and I was just about to do it. And actually, I still maintain that idealistic view. I think that students can change the legislature and they can make things happen. I think that's how I sort of ended up with - what's going one?
Eric Opiela: Some technical difficulties. That's okay. Go right ahead. I'm sorry.
Bart Cochran: That's not actually what the slide looks like. I'll start by just sort of explaining political action versus activism. The only reason why I put that on there was specifically that sometimes when we discuss political action, it's just influencing the legislature and just passing legislation, but activism can really be anything. I know that there are some really good examples. There's a group of young students in the town; they wouldn't let them skate on the sidewalks and so the student lobbied that if you're not going to let us skate on the sidewalks, you've got to give us somewhere to skate. So it was a big issue and the City ended up purchasing and creating their own skate park. And so it was just some young students that had something to do that they thought was fun and that was their interest, and because people were prohibiting them from doing that, they had the power - by getting together and doing something, they had the power to change something. And so I use it universally, sort of a definition that's really broad: any sort of a unified effort for change. And that's what I mean when I say political activism.
I think when we talk about character education, I sort of ask why this is important. I was reading from Dr. Thomas Lacona - I'm not sure; is anybody familiar with Thomas Lacona and his book, Educating for Character? He states - it's one of his points on how to help people develop core ethical values, and his third point was, "Good character consists of moral knowing, moral feeling and moral action; understanding core ethical values, caring about them and acting upon them. These values include respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, diligence, self-control, caring, and courage."
And I thought it was sort of perfect along with the them of the conference in that with political activism in this day and age, what we need is a moral and an ethical leader, and I think we can see that from our last President. And I think what's so important about it - because I'm one of those people that look up to our leaders. I mean, he is the leader of the free world. And sometimes when young people like myself look at someone like that and they make the certain decisions that may be against other peoples' ethical values, it sort of makes us ask the question: Is that okay? Is that something that's okay? Because he did it, is it okay for me to do it? And it sort of helps - it forces some people to sort of soften their own ethical value because the leader of the free world is making these decisions. It may be against mine, but since he's doing it, is it something that I should be able to do? It's almost like a top-down, bottom-up sort of a system because for young people to be able to develop their own core ethical values, they need to have really good examples. They need to have people that they watch consistently. People that are in the media are a perfect example of people that we're basing our own core ethical values on because even - this is my third year in college but I'm definitely still impressionable. I'm still looking at people as mentors and people that I want to shape my life after, people that I look up to.
A lot of times, in a sense what needed to happen a long time ago - it doesn't start in college. Starting from the elementary age, students needs to be fostered to develop core ethical values and to understand what civic responsibility is, and that it actually is a responsibility and not just something people do as a career. And that it's actually something that we do to contribute, to give back to our own communities.
I guess the second piece of that character education - if we can keep it on the same slide - is the environment that they're in. Too many times have I heard the words, "It's okay to do something like that because it's just business." And what I think of as core ethical values is something that streams completely through your life in every aspect of it, whether it's your public life or whether it's your home life. It's something that you would be consistent when you make decisions all the time. I think that's something that's important, that sometimes we sort of compartmentalize our moral and ethical values. You have a different set for when you're at work, because maybe you know that people are watching you, than you do at home; even though you still have people watching you, you may not notice that.
I have one more quote from Dr. Thomas Lacona. His second point states that "People do not automatically develop good character. Intentional and focused efforts must be made by families, schools, faith communities, youth organizations, government, and the media to foster the character development of the young." I think that's a perfect example of creating an environment, that you can help develop those core ethical values.
And the last piece was how this all ties into it, youth activism to political activism - and youth activism is that there's sort of an [word] to activism. And when a person like myself - when we say, "Hey, I'm going to do this because I think that our state is short-changing us on funding for higher education," I'm not looking at it as something that's a perfect stepping-stone for my political career. I'm looking at it as something that I think is unjust to my whole population of college students, everybody that I go to school with, and I'm doing it selflessly. I'm doing it because I want to make a change, and that's the only reason. And I think that too many times you see people running for legislature and they're not there to definitely be just a servant but they're there to be a servant but also to gain some power and move their way up to whether they want to go to Congress or whether they want to be the Governor of the state. And it's not what you should be getting involved in political activism for.
Go ahead and go to the next slide. And I think that a lot of this was all started, and the talk about youth activism, when you talk about border trends. What this graph means is that the lower line is students age 18 to 24, and they take the entire population. You'll notice in 1996 it says 32. That's 32 percent of the population of 18 to 24-year-olds are the ones that are voting. And out of the entire population of 18 and over, 54 percent of the population is voting. That just sort of shows what a small constituency the 18 to 24-year-old group is, and those are the ones that are traditionally affected by higher education and the people when you kind of group youth activism, when you group that into voting.
Go to the next one. The second one is just a non-presidential year. It's even lower. And the concerning trend is that it continues to go down. When we want to get something done - if you want to get something done in the legislature, if you're not a voting constituent, you just don't get anything done. And that was the major frustration that I ran into as I attempted to change things in our Idaho State Legislature, as I started to talk to legislators and say, "Hey, we want some more money. We want some more funding for higher education." They said, "Next year when you vote, when you get a good portion of the voting population out there, when you guys are my constituents, come back and talk to me." And that was really frustrating for me. That was sort of my call to action.
And some of the reactions to that - go to the next one - would be Rock the Vote. That's one of the largest groups that attempt to get students active in their communities. Their number one priority would be getting students registered to vote. I'm just going to read you a little historical perspective about Rock the Vote. They were established in 1990 by music artists, and their original call to action was in response to censorship and free speech issues about music. It was sort of a voluntary censorship of music that was attempting to happen. In 1991, it expanded its focus to the empowerment of young people. In 1992, Rock the Vote registered 350,000 new voters and led 2 million people to the polls. As it continued, in 1996 they created the first register-by-phone line. That was the first time that it had ever been done. It was 1-800- ROCKVOTE. And in that same year, they had the first on-line voter registration. These guys were sort of the pioneers in on-line registration. They also registered over 500,000 new voters through concerts, volunteers, the phone line and on the Internet. Then in 1998, Rock the Vote expanded its focus and their new mission statement was: "Protecting freedom of expression and helping young people realize and utilize their power to effect change in the civic and political lives of their community."
I was going to point two, we talk about a real practical example. This is the Administration Building at the University of Idaho. This is more or less or icon. Our original Administration Building was built in 1903. It burned down in 1904 and so they moved it around and this is not the original Administration Building. It's still beautiful, though. When we talked about a practical example, I guess it's how I got involved. I think everybody kind of understands that by now. It was just my call to action, that I wanted to change things for higher education, and I had this ideological sense that I knew I could - that I thought I could. And hoping - I guess when I first started, I was thinking that I could change things right away, and it didn't happen that way. I knew that it would take time. I realized that soon after I got started.
The major struggle in Idaho - go to the next slide - was that, number one, we were struggling with diminishing higher educational funding, as you see on the graph there. In Idaho - to the graph - there was a major problem. We had two conflicting sides. We had Corrections. We had been traditionally shipping, I think, most of the prisoners from Idaho out-of-state, and when we started housing criminals inside the state, Corrections - the percentage of the general budget for Corrections started to increase. And over a 20-year period, I think it increased 300 percent, and higher education decreased significantly. In 1976 we were receiving 21.6 percent of the budget, and this shows that in 2001 we'll be receiving 11.9 percent. That's that purple bar in the center. That's what was going directly to colleges and universities. To us, that was really disappointing because when the State of Idaho was founded and was created, it's actually in the Constitution that the State of Idaho was going to provide access to education in the State of Idaho, and it was always going to - and when we talk about access, we talk about affordability. And when the State of Idaho stops giving us funding, that means we have to raise tuition and fees. And so at that point it becomes less affordable to students. And comparatively, we're a really inexpensive school, but you have to look at annual income in the State of Idaho and the economy. The cost of living is really low and the actual annual incomes are low as well. And so when we compare to our peer states around us, it's not something that's even really fair to compare because we would be the lowest in that whole northwest area.
Go to the next one. This is actually our fee trends and it's in comparison with state funding. So you'll see that students are only contributing 7.0 percent in 1981 but in 2001 we're contributing 20.7 percent. And so I guess the next piece was that we were looking for - what we wanted to create was political [file]. And obviously, to create political [file] you've got to vote and you've got to make yourself aware. You've got to start writing letters to your legislators and letting them know you're out there and that you're concerned. And we knew that that was going to be one of our number one concerns, in making sure we got the attention of the legislature.
The third piece was the Idaho Promise Scholarship. The Idaho Promise Scholarship was proposed by Senator - what's going on?
Audience Member: I don't know. I'm sorry.
Bart Cochran: I apologize. It was proposed by Senator Lee. It was sort of like the Georgia Hope Scholarship. What we were attempting to do in the State of Idaho - out greatest export is a college graduate - I'm sorry, is a high school graduate. And so a lot of students in the State of Idaho weren't staying here, and so we were losing a lot of our brightest students from the state and they were going elsewhere. So what, I guess, the scholarship was is that if you went to a high school in the State of Idaho, they would provide $1,000 scholarship for you to go to college in the State of Idaho. It passed just last year, which was a big victory for us, but it passed unfunded. And so this year we have an opportunity - and I'll explain how we're doing that - to get this passed and to actually make a change so that students, at least for their first two years, will have some serious funding from the State and it will help subsidize those costs that have been going up over the last couple of years.
This next piece is the Sally Bill. All the information is not quite up there but it's on your sheet. The Sally Bill was working against us. It was the exact opposite of what we wanted to do. This bill was set up to stop public funds from being used for political purposes on college campuses. And so indirectly, when a student gives their tuition and fees to a college and the college gives it to the student government, it become a public fund. And so when we hire our student lobbyist and send him down to Boise, if this bill passed, that wouldn't be allowed. We wouldn't be able to have voter registration drives. We wouldn't have been able to have a letter-writing campaign. Anything political would have been void from our student government.
And the last piece is tax-free textbooks. That's a bill that's being written directly out of Moscow, Idaho. That's where the University of Idaho is. And it's attempting to get textbooks to be complete state tax free, which even though it's only $30 a semester, we think it adds up and we think it will be worth it. We think it would be something that would help out students.
The next piece is what we talked about, the solution in Idaho. We do certain things to help out. This is what we did to sort of counteract what was happening in the legislature. Our first piece, ASUA lobbyist. We send someone down to Boise every legislative session. It's a student and they basically live at the capital for a semester and attempt to sway the legislators in our direction and hopefully get things passes - and things not passed, obviously.
The Idaho Students Registration Week. This is a week during the Finance Committee Hearings. We storm the capital building, a group from each State-funded school in Idaho, and we storm the steps and we have a protest. We bring signs and we make a lot of media coverage. We let them know that we're out there and that we're voting. It's kind of a big deal. It just started this last year and hopefully, as we continue and as it becomes sort of an event that happens every year, it will be something that they really notice and know what's going on. This is one of our biggest voter registration drives. This last year we registered about 1,000 students in three days. On a campus of 8,500, that's a pretty big deal. We actually also literally drove people to the polls. We rented some vans and gave students no excuse not to actually vote that year. The polls are about 300 yards away from where we were picking students up at and we wanted to make sure that they didn't have any excuse not to vote that year.
The Choice 2000 - it was a documentary that we were really blessed to have. It was an in-depth report. It was on PBS, from one of our University of Idaho alums. Did anybody see that, The Choice 2000? It was a Front Line report and it was an in-depth report on George W. Bush and Al Gore. It was a historical perspective on their lives. And so students had a really positive chance to look into their lives and see they really were.
The next piece, the Idaho Student Association - that was a statewide student lobby that just got passed this last year. It's a brand new student lobby that comes from our student government. All of our student governments in the State of Idaho, all higher ed institutions, have representatives on this group. Their sole job is to pick one issue and fight that for the next year, and hopefully come out with some results. This year we chose the tax-free textbooks, so that's the Idaho Student Association's baby, I guess you could say. We were pretty excited about that.
The last piece is relationship lobbying. That's a new concept that's come to our campus, where we're attempting to divide all the legislative districts up and pick students from each legislative district, and fix them up with their legislators - their Senators and their Representatives - and help them develop relationships with them: let them know who they are; let them know what they do at school; let them know they're a constituent. And then when there's an issue like the Sally Bill or the Idaho Promise Scholarship, we can have those students that have developed relationships with their legislators call on them to make a vote.
There's a Rule of Three in the State of Idaho, and maybe that's just because we have about a million people in the state, that three handwritten letter from any constituent or any group of constituents that are in your legislative district - that's considered a major issue. And so for us, if we have three students paired up with all the legislators, that's a pretty large impact we can make.
I guess when we get to the last section here, we talked about how you can do it. There are 25 ways to become a political activist. This is just something I kind of pulled off a combination of Rock the Vote and Youth Vote 2000 and WWF Vote. That was kind of a big deal this last year. WWF, the wrestling federation, got involved in the vote and they did some pretty neat public service announcements on television. There was The Rock and he was saying, "Millions and millions of Rock fans," and he's got the glasses on. I don't know if there are any big WWF fans out there but a lot of college students know who The Rock is. There's about 14 million people that watch WWF on a regular basis. It's kind of one of those situations where they have celebrity status, and if The Rock tells you to vote, then you're going to vote. So it was kind of a big deal this last year. I actually had one of the public service announcements on my ZIP disk but it didn't download right or it just didn't work, so unfortunately we don't get to see that today.
But some of the ones I wanted to point out real quick-
Audience Member: Bart, in the bottom of the first row, "become a hactivist" -
Bart Cochran: Yes, I was going to point that one out. That's a term that's been coined by Youth Vote 2000, and they're meaning "hactivist" like hacking computers. So it's basically get your issue, and whatever you issue may be, get it on the Web and let people know what you feel about it, because people are surfing the Web every day and they can come across it, and hopefully you can get linked up with other Web sites. I thought it was kind of a neat term that they used.
Obviously, the most important is "register to vote, and vote." If you can't get more active then obviously you can't but that's the fundamental of being an activity. Number 4, I said "volunteer," and I think that's so important, because activism stems from not just political activism but the biggest way you can be an activist is to serve - serving in your community, serving the state. Whatever organization you want to get involved with, whether it's a national organization or a local organization, serving is probably the best way to be an activist.
There are some neat Web sites - number 10, "protest," www.actupnewyork.org. There are ways to non-violently protest. It's a whole Web site on all these sort of different things that they've done. It's pretty incredible. All of these Web sites, 1 through 4, they're incredible Web sites about what's happening in the political world. They talk about how to become active in your own community, and so on and so forth. They're incredible to check out and I'd encourage you to at least just look at them.
Number 22 is another one that I thought was pretty important, "in sport" is another way to become active. www.newdream.org investigates companies and finds out what their environmental policies are, and sort of on those kind of terms, and takes them and puts a consumer report out on exactly what's going on. So you can know companies that you're invested in, you can know if they recycle; you can know if you're eating dolphin-free tuna or whatever.
I have a couple of success stories that I just wanted to share with you. I'll finish up here because I see we're running out of time. What's funny is when I was going through here, there's actually one from Austin, Texas, which is kind of neat. This was interesting and it kind of applies to college students. It says, "Sweatshop workers are forced to labor in miserable conditions and for sub-poverty wages to make those sweatshirts that college bookstores are selling to proud parents and football parents nationwide. The United Students Against Sweatshops, a coalition of college students across the country from New York to North Carolina to Wisconsin to California, are doing everything from creating public education campaigns to taking over college administration buildings. School administrators have come to the table agreeing to act responsibly and use their economic power to establish codes of conduct for these companies that use their logos and a beginning to the end of the low pay and the unsafe conditions." And I think that's just incredible, because there's a whole list here. And if you're interested in this information - I got this off Rock the Vote - I certainly could share it with you. But it just really shows that there are examples of college students of all sorts - and this is geared towards students - but they're actually out there doing things. You can get a perfect example of what University of Idaho and what the direct effect has been because we're obviously waiting. Actually, right now the Idaho Student Association - Idaho Students for Education Week is right now and they're actually marching the capital as we speak, probably right now. It's one o'clock there. So that's kind of neat for us.
One last one I wanted to read for you. This girl, Melissa Poe, was 9 years old when she started Kids For A Clean Environment. "She had tried to get involved with her environmental organizations at the time but she didn't feel like they had ideas for how to involved young people. Nine years later, when she was 18, Melissa stepped down as the organization's CEO - Child Executive Officer - because she decided that she was too old to speak for kids anymore. Since her departure, the group has become the largest youth environmental organization in the world with 300,000 members." She started that when she was 9 years old. I thought that was pretty incredible.
And lastly, I think there was one comment that I thought was pretty good in here and I just wanted to read it to you. I thought it was kind of funny. This is my last piece. After wwfvote.com got started, they asked all the people who were running for President just to give a comment about political activism and why it was important to vote, and Al Gore responded with this one. He says, "When The Rock and China" - these are two wrestlers; one's a man and one's a woman - "appeared at the Democratic Convention this summer, they told everybody that the 14 million eligible votes among the WWF audience will be heard from them on election day. Well, now that you have your chance to prove them right, no offense to The Rock, but the President is the ultimate peoples' champion. And on Tuesday, we the people decide who lays claim to that title. The vote you cast will have a huge impact on your lives and future, whether it's maintaining our strong economy, cleaning up our environment, helping families afford college, health care, or a secure retirement, this and so many other issues will be on the ballot on Tuesday. I ask for your support because these things matter and this election is close. You can make the difference. Don't [word], vote." [Word] - that's kind of his term. I thought it was kind of interesting that he correlated the Rock the Vote, the WWF thing there.
I think that's really all I had to say. Are we going to go to questions now?
Eric Opiela: Yes. We're running a little bit short on time because we had a slow start getting A V equipment set up for this session. I apologize for that. But if y'all have any questions, feel free to ask.
Audience Member: I've got a comment. All of you gave very good presentations of your ideas on leadership, and I just want to make sure that everyone continues to think of the term "ethical" whenever they think of the term "leadership." There have been many, many strong leaders - I wouldn't necessarily call them great leaders - who have had many, many, many followers who supported them but in totally unethical ways. And it's great to become a leader, and it's great to be able to get your ideas across to a following and have that following try to follow your ideals, but just remember that the whole purpose of this conference, and I hope the whole purpose of the idea of ethical leadership, is to make sure that all those ideas that you're pushing down and trying to get your followers to absorb should be ethical. We were so surprised to hear this morning the talk by Ambassador Joseph that really kind of, for me, defines what we had hoped to hear at great length at this conference, and I think which has been kind of subdued in the overall talk on leadership, and some of the contents of leadership have been more "how do we transfer leadership from this group over to this group?" And that's fine; that's a whole different program. The concept that, no matter which group it is, they all need to be striving for ethical leadership. That's a comment; no question.
Audience Member: One of the things that I've noticed is a lot of the student organizations and student groups, there's always a group of students that hangs back. And I would like to ask you, as a leader, what type of solution you have for bringing those people forward into the issue, to get out of the kind of self-selecting process that seems to take place? Does anybody have some suggestions for that?
Craig Rotter: Can you define "hanging back" a little bit more?
Audience Member: Yes. Students who don't get involved. They'll sit in the back of the room. They may even come to the meetings for a while. After a while, they probably peel off. But they'll sit back there; there's an interest there initially or they wouldn't be there. But it's about bringing them forward so that they have an opportunity to get involved. And I've seen this; it's sort of like hanging on the wall. And there seem to be quite a few of those, at least here at The University of Texas, from what I've seen in volunteer orgs and some other places where I've seen these things. And I'm just curious if you guys have some suggestions from your own experience of what you've seen and what you've done, to bring these students in?
Craig Rotter: I do. I think the important thing is, if you're recognizing that, I would hope that the organizers of the activity or the group recognize that, and I would suggest some sort of training be done with them to recognize that happening in front of them, and perhaps work to bring those people into the picture so that they don't leave or, after a second meeting when there's not food at a meeting, et cetera, that they don't come back. Try to draw them in without having to have those types of enticing items.
Audience Member: Have you done those things personally yourself?
Craig Rotter: Yes.
Audience Member: So when you see it, that's what you do?
Craig Rotter: Yes, I have. I did that as a student leader. But I also do it in the classroom today. You obviously know when students aren't participating and you can either walk up toward them, or if they're having a side conversation, et cetera - and I think that if we push that into the mindset of our student leaders, that hopefully they can do the same and work to bring those people in.
Bart Cochran: I'd make a comment that sometimes you just have to find their niche. I know that in my fraternity, there would be a perfect example. I've really pushed to get every single one of those guys involved in at least one club on campus. And there are some guys that don't want to be in student government, and that's understandable, but there are so many student organizations out there, there's got to be something they're interested in. And it's just the point of taking the time to sit down with them and say, "What is it that you're interested in?" And for this one specific guy, he didn't want to be in the student government at all. He wasn't interested in productions or programs. But there was one that I had never pointed anybody to, and it was called the Golf Course Advisory Committee. He goes, "Oh, I love golf!" He was really interested in the way courses are designed and everything, and he was just really pumped up about it. And I appointed him and he's really active on that committee nowWho knew that guy was interested in that until I sat him down and actually pointed that out?
Audience Member: Now, will he come talk to you about things that are going on there?
Bart Cochran: With the Golf Course Advisory Committee?
Audience Member: Yes.
Bart Cochran: Yes, certainly. He's so excited. Because he sees me - he saw me leading on campus and I just thought, "This is what I have in common with this guy so this is what I'm going to talk about. This is how I'm going to start a conversation with him." But you also mentioned something about how like if he was there, if he was in a meeting already - like you already have an organization and he came up - he wanted to be involved but wasn't an active part of it. Is that kind of your question? I guess when I respond to that question, it's more or less that maybe he hasn't defined - like he hasn't figured out where he fits into this group yet. Maybe if it's a service organization or something, maybe he's a guy in there that has some incredible computer skills and you guys could use a Web site or something, and he just hasn't really find that you have that need yet, and he hasn't been able to come forward and do something about it. Maybe he or she is a great organizer and you can help that person - assign them some tasks, whether it's a minor responsibility or a major responsibility, in organizing some sort of venture. I mean, just about everybody, if they want to get involved in something like that, has some sort of a niche that they like to do. And if you can just figure out what it is that they're good at or what they're confident in, then you can help kind of get them active and involved. Because once they take an active role once - if somebody feels like they want to sit back in the back of the room, but if they were the computer technician or whatever for the group and they designed a Web site, they're going to be the one to stand up and be active and say, "Hey, that's not on the Web site. We could do this; we could do that."
Craig Rotter: Another suggestion would be to have some sort of exercise at the beginning of each meeting where everyone introduces themselves so that people know that person that may not come the next time. It might work to know one-another because I think that would be a greater way - if you have friends in the room, you're more likely to come back.
Eric Opiela: I wish we had more time for questions. If it's a comment -
Audience Member: It's sort of a comment and a question. Where are the [inaudible]?
Eric Opiela: Valid point, a very valid point.
Audience Member: And then, I was very active in student events in college and was one of the officers. Where are they today? [Inaudible]
Eric Opiela: They're there, to a large extent.
Audience Member: In the leadership?
Eric Opiela: And they are there.
Craig Rotter: Could I speak to that? At Texas A&M we have several. We brought several with us today. You notice that in our delegation of student leaders, we brought several women and males, and we have certain chairs within student government. And so we've really - especially coming from an all-male university at one time, we've really broken down those barriers in the past.
Audience Member: I can appreciate that specifically at A&M because there's a different history there. And I know UT has had -
Eric Opiela: This year the leadership in the student government is two males, but it varies back and forth. When I was Vice President, a female was President. And then Marlen's term was two males again. You know, it varies back and forth. Unfortunately, I think that even though there are more females on campus, there are more males involved in these activities because it seems to be disproportionate.
Audience Member: And yet when you look at the adult population in terms of who's surveyed, you get more women that show up in the demographics.
Craig Rotter: One more thing on that. I would like to add that we also, in the last 10 years, have had two female Student Body Presidents at Texas A&M, and with two running this next year supposedly, one candidate is in our delegation - two candidates are in our delegation that are women. It's possible we'll have a third this next year.
Bart Cochran: I would just make a comment. I'll be honest; I think this is coincidental because we all have some sort of a connection to Eric. But at our university right now, I know that the person who took my position as Student Body President is a woman. The Vice President is now a woman. The majority of the Senate now, 8 out of the 13 Senators are women. Actually I've appointed 4 out of the 7 Board Chairs are women. It's just something that kind of shifts back and forth, I guess.
Audience Member: It's been an observation throughout the conference. I was hoping to see something a little different with this generation, according to what you're doing.
Eric Opiela: And I apologize for it.
Craig Rotter: We're seeing that on our own campuses, I believe, though.
Audience Member: But it's been excellent.
Eric Opiela: Thank you.