The Dernogalizer

April 13, 2010

Column on SGA Leadership

Filed under: University of Maryland — Matt Dernoga @ 1:58 am
Tags: ,

This column is a little outside the norm.  It’s not explicitly environmental, and it’s the first time I’ve written about the SGA in about a year.  But it’s good to mix it up some, so enjoy this one.

Glickman: Credit where it’s due

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement for the upcoming Student Government Association elections — just bad timing. As I write this, I have no clue who I’m voting for.

I was intrigued to read Rich Abdill’s guest column “System Error” last Tuesday in which he lambasted the SGA — particularly President Steve Glickman — for getting nothing done.

A lot of what Abdill writes about the ineffectiveness of the SGA and its flawed structure is spot on. What I take issue with is his criticism of the SGA president for taking some credit for some of the activities SGA members and student groups have undertaken. I don’t think Abdill understands what being the leader of the university’s largest student organization entails. Your job isn’t to be the point man on everything; it’s to work with other leaders to get things done.

I’m the campaign director of an environmental activist group at the university called UMD for Clean Energy — basically a co-president. Let me tell you something that a lot of leaders of student groups will nod their heads to: managing an organization is a pain in the ass sometimes.

My organization works on one issue area. I work with a media director, an outreach director, a political liaison, a membership director, an organizational director, a webmaster and all our members. I’ve gotten to know almost everyone’s tasks just as well as the office holders and work with each of them to help execute our roles in sync with our goals. Credit for our successes is shared.

I’ve seen other groups get partial or full credit for our accomplishments, including the SGA. But I can’t complain too much. My organization has been praised many times for saving the Wooded Hillock when it was the SGA’s Sustainability Committee. Some Diamondback articles have made it seem as if my group invented the innovative idea of a clean energy loan fund for College Park, when we, well, borrowed that idea from other municipalities.

The reality is that as a leader of a student group, I’ve been praised for doing things I didn’t do, ignored for things I did do and criticized for both. It comes with the territory.

Glickman has it tougher: He works on many issue areas at once. He has to manage a whole cabinet full of people waiting to screw up or act lazy and put up with 40-plus legislators trying to pull the SGA in directions that he may not agree with. If there’s a setback, he takes some blame, as Abdill alludes to with Cordell Black’s failed reinstatement. If there’s a win, such as the Board of Regents not infringing on our free speech last fall, he should get some of the praise even if he was loosely involved. It balances out.

The real sign of a good leader isn’t worrying too much about how many wins versus losses people recognize him or her for. It’s drowning out that noise, putting his or her head down and working hard for his or her members, win or lose.

Glickman’s membership is the entire student body. Based on how many times I’ve seen him go in and out of the SGA office from my couch in Stamp Student Union’s Student Involvement Suite and advocate with student activists on a wide spectrum of university issues, he deserves a little bit of credit.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

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