Xavier has a leadership culture problem

By joseph Cotton, Education & Enrichment Coordinator

Xavier has a problem with the ways it talks about leadership. Allow me to explain.  

Throughout my time at Xavier, I have heard club involvement has been steadily declining. It’s not all about COVID-19, either. While club involvement took a heavy hit last year, the problem goes back to before the pandemic. I would encourage you to take a look at a 2019 article titled “Student Involvement Decreases” by Mo Juenger for more context. 

So what makes people get involved? The answer to that question may be uncomfortable for some people to admit.  

For your average Xavier student, clubs provide two resources. The first resource is community activities. Being part of a community is an important part of a successful college experience. We can all remember our first set of club involvements in our first years on campus and the great connections and friendships we have formed out of them. 

However, once people move into the latter half of their collegiate careers, they often drift away from the club involvements that originally gave them a foothold in the Xavier community. This period is when the club can offer the second, more lucrative resource to students in the form of “leadership opportunities.”   

While these leadership opportunities can be a positive force to develop as a person and a member of the Xavier community, they can become a toxic force help me in the race for career development opportunities. Additionally, like all resources, leadership opportunities are limited and not all created equally; obviously one is more likely to put SGA Vice President higher on their resume when compared to Alliance Administrative Coordinator.    

We’ve all felt the pressure to max out opportunities we can put something on our resumes. We all know someone with way too much on their plate. Heck, that was me last year. We’ve sacrificed community in favor of leadership. Essentially, we are all going too fast to stop and smell the flowers.   

Even the Office of Student Involvement’s (OSI) motto seems to drive this attitude towards leadership at Xavier. The motto “Discover, Develop, Lead” implies a linear progression where leadership is the ultimate goal. There is no space for simply enjoying the community that has been built around you. This attitude is why students get more and more apathetic as they enter into upper classmen terms. If there is no opportunity for me, what is the point?  

I also attribute the recent failures of the SGA Senate to retain upperclassmen to this toxic attitude surrounding leadership. Once the first- and second-years realize that the SGA Senate seat isn’t as prestigious as they once thought, they have no incentive to stay in the organization. 

While all clubs at Xavier face this problem one way or the other, SGA serves as an extreme example because once the prestige is removed, there is no sense of community to serve as a backbone to the experience.  So what’s the solution to the problem? I don’t really know. All I can say is that the last few months I spend at Xavier will be focused on community rather than leadership.