Op-ed: Why “Excellence in Leadership Sessions” are not so excellent

Justin Diamond, a junior, is the treasurer of Philosophy Club and Secretary General of Blocky Bottom.

Tuesday, March 23, was a busier day than usual for me. I woke up early for geography class, prepared and delivered a lengthy presentation in Chinese, then listened in on my Economics class lecture while playing a game of chess by the Foggy Bottom Metro Station. Finally, after uploading the recording of a charity event from a few days before, I called my good friend Ian Ching to plan yet another virtual event: a Student Association presidential debate, which would be hosted on our GW Minecraft server, Blocky Bottom. Despite the momentum behind my daily grind, we couldn’t begin planning just yet.

Since Ching and I were both members of different student organizations’ e-boards, we had to join an Excellence in Leadership Session, or else our organizations would be delisted from GW Engage. This is the consequence for any group that neglects to fulfill its four ELS requirements per year, one of which must be a Title IX-related ELS session.

Ironically, the session, which obstructed our ability to plan an event, was titled “Planning a Virtual Event 101,” and like every other ELS session I’ve attended, it was painfully uninformative. My goal is not to belittle the students or administrators who deliver these presentations but to point out the fact that ELS requirements are at best a waste of time, and at worst, an elaborate excuse to delist less active organizations while disincentivizing small groups from establishing themselves within the GW community. Personally, I’m convinced that they’re both. After all, if ELS sessions were purely meant to inform student leaders, then why aren’t they pre-recorded and made constantly available like all other organization resources? It seems like our time is either being unintentionally wasted because student organization leaders are assumed to be clueless by default, or our time is being intentionally wasted in an overzealous attempt to deter a minuscule population of inactive student leaders. For students like Ian, who would otherwise be working on passion projects that build community at GW, these Exceptionally Lame Session requirements are counterintuitive.

As a student who has founded organizations big and small, I know that the Center for Student Engagement is constantly working to create new organizations. They are also looking to prevent the creation of organizations that are seen as unnecessary, redundant or overtly niche. The process of applying to become an organization should be a strong enough filter in and of itself. Once an organization is established, requiring four ELS sessions only serves to place an undue burden on student leaders who are already busy taking on leadership roles in communities they care about.

One Title IX ELS session should be mandatory per year, and all other ELS sessions should become completely optional. This change will ensure completely inactive organizations can be delisted, while active student leaders are made repeatedly aware of the Title IX resources available to them on campus. I think I speak for most – if not all – student leaders when I say that we’re sick and tired of this bureaucratic thorn in our side. It’s time we limit ourselves to requiring one unfortunately important ELS session per year.

I expect student leaders to advocate for the elimination of these unpopular requirements, and I hope our administrators will listen carefully and act accordingly. I’m confident that relegating excessive ELS requirements to the past will prove that sometimes, less is more.

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