I am part of the student leadership for my FRC team and wanted to see what Chief Delphi thought of some things going on in our club right now. We have always been proud to call ourselves very student-led and run, and historically our team has had student leadership making most the calls and students making every bit of the robot from design to build to the software. However, due to some recent success in the last few years, the teacher advisors of the club have started to take on a more commanding role. To be completely honest, I believe this is good because the team hasn’t always had the best leadership in previous years. However, the latest change that the advisors have basically forced upon the club without the approval of the student leadership seems (to me) to be unwise. I wanted to see what Chief Delphi might think about it.
Background: The team operates as a club towards our high school. This means that we are technically supposed to accept everyone who applies. However, every year before this year we had an application process that ended up cutting many people that would have been very helpful to the team. Although we accepted everyone this year, some inequality still occurred and we had a core group of around 15-20 students doing most of the robot. This elitist exclusivity (the way the advisors say it) has ticked off our advisors and they wanted to change things. To do this, they changed our student leadership elections to be in the Fall (when the next school year starts) rather than in the Spring (right now) when we have always done them. They plan on hosting a leadership training session during the summer where students from the team can learn what it would mean to have a leadership role on the team, and then they can choose whether they still want to run in the fall.
In my opinion, I think this isn’t the best time and place for elections for two reasons.
- In the Spring, you have experienced Seniors who have been on this team for four years and know who might be the right choice for the position. However, those Seniors are gone in the Fall and in their place come rookies who will have to vote for leaders that they met hours ago. I think that places a lot of responsibility on new members who have virtually no idea who to vote for, and misses out on the years of expertise that these students have.
- For about four months, our club will essentially have no leadership and will not be able to run. I believe that missing four crucial months of offseason time when we could be doing outreach events, building more robots, and training new members when instead we will be sitting around doing almost nothing.
We proposed a different idea to the advisors but they shot it down immediately. The student leadership proposed to have leaders elected, continue to have leadership training (which I believe will be very beneficial) in the summer, and then have those leaders reevaluate whether they want to continue being leaders in the Fall. This would both train better leaders and allow for the club to continue growing and improving over the next four months.
From the students and mentors (who are all experienced industry professionals and leaders themselves) who I have talked to, they all agree that having elections in the Fall would be a bad idea. What do you guys think? If the general consensus is that Spring elections are better, do you have any tips as to how we (our student leadership) could work to change this?*
*Note about changing the situation: The advisors have threatened that if we try to undermine their authority, they might leave the club. Unfortunately, despite my vast unhappiness with the way they have handled the club, they are by far the best teachers at our school to mentor this club, and without them, the club would likely shut down.