“F” Student Leadership
Fuck is one of them, but not in the way you’re thinking.
By Samantha Gross, Concordia University
Student leadership positions can be a fantastic way to meet people, get involved on campus and test your limits with working in close proximity to other human beings.
By the time my senior year of college rolls around, I’ll have been doing collegiate student leadership for four years, and in doing so I have learned that the whole process can be reduced to five F-words, one of which, yes, is fuck, but not in the way you’re thinking.
Some leadership positions will pay you. Others will not. I happen to have selected the only leadership position at my university that does not get paid, and as sweet as a regular paycheck for interacting with freshmen would be, it’s not as sweet as the look on their faces when I tell them I’m not paid to be their friend. That’s right, Susan, I’m here at the ass crack of dawn o’clock being a fucking ray of sunshine voluntarily. Appreciate it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some money involved in what I do. Most student activities have a budget, that way when I’m baking my freshmen stress cookies I don’t have to shell out the few quarters in my wallet for ingredients. I can plan fun events without going broke (which I suppose is good since I’m not making any money from it either).
Other positions, like RA’s, are paid. Those sometimes come with additional perks such as an oven or a larger room (and no roommate!), but come at the cost of rounds and dealing with drunk students who think they’re being sneaky when they crash through campus at 3 o’clock in the morning. You have to pick your poison when it comes to leadership, but like just about anything in college, a lot of times it’s worth the price of admission.
College is an assortment of many different personality types, and oftentimes leadership positions reflect that diversity. You’ll meet people you instantly click with and demon spawn you instantly clash with. (In reality, there are very few demon spawn in leadership, and the few that exist hardly show up to events, which I assume is related to the daylight burning their skin.)
But most of the time, the people you interact with will become your friends, and they’ll all be different. If not for volunteering, how else could you know everyone from the high jumper to the kid who does magic tricks in math?
There’s something about training for a week in the woods or cleaning burnt popcorn out of the freshmen kitchen that really bonds people, and while they may not become the ones you sit with at lunch every day, you will build some great memories with them.
Fake (It Till You Make It)
My retail coworkers think I was born perky. The newest group of incoming orientation leaders think I have a permanent smile. The freshmen and parents I greet in the beginning of August will believe that I am some kind of sunshine machine.
I may or may not have the blonde bonus for this perky trait, but the truth is that “morning person Sam” is an act. I hate mornings. I don’t function well until at least 10am (bless mid-afternoon classes), but because of student leadership, I’ve been pretending to be a morning person for three years. College student leadership trains you to be ready to take on any challenge at any time.
So what if you’re not fully awake by 6am opening orientation day? You’re gonna slap on a smile anyway and greet those parents like it’s your fucking job. Because it is.
Because you’re at least a sophomore by the time you really get into leadership, “been there done that” applies in plenty of situations of situations, which is instrumental to the faking-it-til-you-make-it. Roommate problems? Been there. Homesickness? Done that. Thinking about changing their major? Check. Haunted dorm room? You fucking betcha.
Additionally, parents ask a lot of questions, some of which you won’t have all the answers to. But as a leader, it’s your job to know at least some of the answers and to know who to call for the rest of them. You’re the final push for these parents, who are by now realizing that they are actually leaving their children at this institution by themselves. You’re the happy face who’s telling them that it’s going to be okay, you’ve done it, everyone there has done it and their child can totally take on college. At least until it’s time to do laundry.
Ah, freshman. Young and eager and ready to take on the world. I was just like them once, long ago, before upper level classes sucked me into the black hole that is Ralph Waldo Emerson and spit me back out as an awkward fan of Billy Shakes (William Shakespeare—the real homie).
But freshmen, man, some of them are prepared for college and others are Definitely Not.
And sometimes it’s their parents’ fault, not theirs. I once had a parent ask me if they could hire a cleaning crew for their child’s dorm room.
Another wanted the admissions office to call their son on his first day of class and make sure he got up for them. Not all freshman (or their parents) are like that, but those are the memorable ones. They’re also the students that, as a student leader, you’ll be dealing with more often than the others.
It is a student leader’s job to help guide and shape these students’ experience to the best of your ability, which in some cases does mean playing mom. Should they know how to do their laundry by now? Yes, and some of them will. But some of them won’t, and it is instrumental that they learn how to do that near the beginning of the school year.
N.B.: Freshman—and upperclassman, if you still don’t know—please learn how to do your laundry before you leave home. No, you cannot make it from the first day of school to Thanksgiving break on only the underwear you brought with you. Yes, you do need to use laundry detergent and not dish soap. Please.
(What the) Fuck
I prefaced this one with a “what the” simply because, while there are some couples and hookups within leadership, for a group of similar-aged mixed sexes in one place, there’s less sexual activity than you’d think.
Instead, this section is essentially for all of the weird shit that happens in leadership. For example, I could wear solely leadership shirts for an entire month without repeating anything. Resident Assistants get calls for plungers and stopped toilets all the time, even though the number for maintenance is pasted to almost every surface and paper in the dorms.
You’ll know certain things about certain students without ever speaking to them, and odds are you’ll be angry about whatever they did. One of the students you look after may become obsessed with you. It’s totally normal on campus, but when you go home for winter break and tell your mom one of your students brought a cooked eggplant to your dorm, you’ll realize that’s absolutely a “what the fuck” moment.
Regardless of individual experience, leadership is built on activities at weird hours, friends from all walks of life and the potential to make a bit of money, kind of like a legal version of drug dealing, and nothing tops it. Less eloquently, leadership is some fun shit.
But, take heed: If you hate dealing with freshman, don’t do it. Everyone from student body president to Resident Assistants to orientation leaders have to deal with first-years. It’s unavoidable.
Besides, you were a freshmen once, and while it is just as horrifying as you remember it being (Did your old roommate ever do their laundry? What was that weird stain? Do you even want to know where your lab partner is at now?), you’ve moved past it and learned quite a bit from the experience. So buck up and share your wisdom, because whatever you wish that someone had told you freshman year could potentially save one of these new kids’ asses.