USG advises future board members to be cautious of power dynamics
It’s that time of year again — the sun is out, the birds are chirping and Baruch College has a newly elected Undergraduate Student Government.
I remember when I first started my position of vice president. At the time, I was taking a psychology class on leadership and managerial development and I learned the downside to becoming a leader. Rising to power changes you in a negative way sometimes.
It is quite ironic how the paradox goes. The traits you were able to use to get elected into the position in the first place can diminish once you enter your role.
Many surveys and studies have shown that ethical issues in workplaces are most correlated to the person with the most authority. Upon learning this last year, I made sure our executive board, including myself, knew about this.
We are all well aware of the dangers that power going to our heads would cause, and we keep ourselves in check by holding each other accountable.
There are moments of slip-ups, but none of us allow the other members of student government to betray what they know to be appropriate behavior.
In past years, there have been USG members who have abused their power — executives denying senators the ability to host events for a semester, members talking down to one another as if it is justified, threats used by executives in order to sway votes and people not allowing non-USG members to hold responsibility. This is what everyone has to be aware of in order to grow.
As the phrase goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” It does not come naturally. It takes a lot of thinking before you act or speak to make sure you are acting as you would want to, not as the power is allowing you to justify. It also takes a lot of support from your other team members.
Whenever I was unsure if I was replying to someone fairly or abusing my power, I checked with the rest of the executive board.
The executive board in particular has an immense amount of power. It means making decisions, thinking strategically and really understanding what your goals are for the organization. The executive board is also the most likely to abuse this power.
This is why you have to think. How you act as an executive board and what you tolerate sets the tone for your team. You have to find a balance between being stern when needed and also being friendly and kind. Being stern is not an abuse of power but being mean definitely is.
As for the other roles in USG, so many of them have power of their own. Many are leading or working with a team and their decisions as a leader affect the direction of whatever they are in control of. This power too has a high chance of getting to people’s heads, especially if they have not had the power before.
People think they are able to justify their actions and words because of their title.
This is how to create a toxic environment. It is also important to keep this in mind no matter what position you are in, your actions have reactions.
We have the power to say no, to hold back stipends, to make some decisions without a vote and we have the power to change USG for the worse if we are not careful.
This is why you have to think. How you act as an executive board member and what you tolerate sets the tone for your team. You have to find a balance between being stern when needed and also being friendly and kind.
Many USG members are leading or working with a team and their decisions as a leader affect the direction of whatever they are in control of.
This power has a high chance of getting to people’s heads, especially if they have not had the power before.
People think they are able to justify their actions and words because of their title, but it’s important to understand that actions have consequences.
The reality is that USG is rewarding; one just has to be very careful. Regardless of the role, USG changes you. It makes you grow as a person. The direction you grow, however, is up to you.
Emma Jorgensen is the executive vice president of USG. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office is located at 3-276 in the Newman Vertical Campus.