Amongst the vast panoply of section representatives, one of the least understood roles is that of Leadership & Values rep. A current L&V rep shares his perspective, offering some examples of situations an L&V rep might face and commenting on the ups and downs of the this role.
“L&V rep? Who in their right mind would sign up for that?” That was the very question running through my mind when I first heard about the position of Leadership and Values Representative. I mean, who wants to be burdened with having to approach a fellow section mate about body odor? Or try and reason with ten inebriated class mates after a night out, reminding them that streaking across campus in the middle of January can lead to frost bite? “Definitely not me” I thought at first. However, after speaking to a few EC L&V reps, my opinion of what an L&V rep did and what he or she stood for began to change dramatically. Now, after five months of holding the position, I can honestly say that while often challenging, it’s one of the most fulfilling roles I’ve had the honor to fulfill.
A common question I get asked is “What exactly does an L&V rep do anyways?” Of course there are the more public responsibilities that everyone sees such as leading section norm discussions, sending out emails related to diversity and gentle in-class reminders about trying to arrive to class on time. However, the vast majority of the work we do is behind the scenes, underground, and hidden from watchful eyes.
The reasons for this are obvious: it wouldn’t really be appropriate to send a mass email about how Penny’s frequent trips to the bathroom are disrupting class or have a section wide discussion about how Tommy’s messy eating is creating a minor biohazard in the power deck. Most of these types of issues are fairly minor and more appropriately dealt with in private, and thus go largely unnoticed by the vast majority of the section.
But are these really the types of issues that L&V reps deal with on a daily basis? If they’re lucky, most L&V reps get away with only a handful of minor incidents that come up through the year. Sometimes the incidents are of more concern and deal with actions that offend a significant portion of the section, such as an inappropriate comment made in class or offensive material being put up on the bulletin board. On rare occasions the incidents can be even more serious than that and involve offenses such as destruction of personal property or harassment, which eventually lead to the administration’s involvement as well.
No matter how big or small the issue might be, the main role of the L&V rep can be seen as one of crisis prevention and damage control. Even minor issues that may seem small at first can sometimes spiral out of control and cause permanent damage to the section dynamic if not addressed early on. It’s our role as L&V reps to maintain a heightened sense of awareness to these types of issues and help address them head-on before they become real problems.
As you can imagine, being a L&V rep is not always easy. Having difficult feedback conversations with people who are being disruptive in class, or doing damage control after a SkyDeck presentation goes a little too far, are not tasks I wholly enjoy or look forward to doing on a regular basis. There’s also the feeling that as an L&V rep you need to be on your best behavior at all times. I don’t think this is a pressure that the section exerts on us per se, but rather one that we as individual L&V reps tend to exert on ourselves. The temptations to engage in disruptive side conversations or arrive late to class are always there, but the fear of not practicing what we preach is usually enough to keep us on the straight and narrow. Plus, who would people go to if it was their own L&V rep who was being disruptive and jeopardizing the section dynamic?!?
Despite some of these drawbacks, at the end of the day, the role of section L&V rep is extremely rewarding. I feel it’s given me a unique opportunity to create real impact within the section and get to know people on a much more personal basis. It’s a role that’s been extremely humbling and often a struggle, but one that I am honored to perform every day.