As a school boasting over 60 clubs, IMSA prides itself on providing students with a diverse range of extracurriculars. However, concerns have been voiced regarding club leadership. In the Fall of 2022, Club/Student Group Town Halls were held to discuss student perspectives on IMSA’s club culture. Much feedback has been received about how clubs operate, including concerns about inefficient communication, overlap in goals/opportunities across student groups, and diversity among club leadership. On the topic of club leadership, students want to ensure that the whole IMSA community is aware of applications for leadership positions and that the criteria for a student leadership position should not simply be charismatic and have good public speaking skills. Elections have been referred to as popularity contests and students are worried that a lack of anonymity among applications leads to favoritism and friend-group nepotism. Following the Town Halls, IMSA’s Student Affairs, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, and Residential Life offices have worked to create changes to benefit club culture at IMSA, including implementing regulations on who can hold high-commitment leadership positions.
The high-commitment leadership positions have been defined by the offices of Student Affairs, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, and Residential Life as follows:
- StudCo (Student Council): President, Vice President, CAB Director (Not allowed to hold president positions on StudCo Chartered Clubs)
- CCE (Council for Campus Equity): 2 Co-Liaisons, 2 MLK Scholars (Not allowed to hold president positions on StudCo Chartered Clubs)
- LEAD (Leadership Education and Development): 2 Co-Coordinators
- Class Clubs: Senior, Junior, and Sophomore Class Club Presidents (SCC President is not allowed to hold president positions on StudCo Chartered Clubs)
- Residential Student Leaders (RSLs): 7 Hall Community Leaders (Not allowed to hold president positions on StudCo Chartered Clubs)
Students looking to apply to any of these positions may only be allowed to hold one of the roles described above. Additional guidelines are placed on certain groups regarding whether or not they may hold president positions on StudCo Chartered Clubs. There have been many student opinions regarding these new guidelines, so to shed some light, here is some information from three members of the Class of 2024 who would be affected by this decision.
Faizaan Shaikh and Justina Kostiv are part of IMSA’s class of 2024 and are currently Residential Student Leaders (RSLs) as well as Campus Activities Board (CAB) members.
Both of these students were personally impacted by the decision to regulate who can hold high-commitment leadership positions. Shaikh elaborates that, “The whole situation regarding the High-Commitment Leadership Positions is very interesting and affects me on a personal level. I was very angry initially as they brought the email out of the blue mentioning that I could not potentially apply for CAB Director and for a hall’s HCC. That’s what I’ve planned to do for so long and that one email completely shattered that plan. And this is not just me. This is several other students who have worked extremely hard in their respective clubs to be denied the chance to apply for the top position. It seems as if the decision was made entirely without the students’ opinions.”
Kostiv also initially felt anger, but also confusion, wondering, “Why was SCC President on there (who is very much a team member) but not someone like ISP co-president or culture show directors, and what makes HCC (a position that I hold right now) a fitting thing to be put on that list when it really isn’t that much of a commitment? It felt like they randomly picked positions and said you can’t be any of them.” She continues to question why these specific positions were chosen because, “They said that the point of this was to make sure that leadership was spread out to more people on campus and also that people weren’t over-committing. The three positions I mentioned [Student Council President, Vice President, and CAB Director] have a very small pool of people who can apply anyway.”
Thankfully, members of the Student Affairs office and the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion have proven to listen to student feedback and criticism of the new regulations. Shaikh says that, “After some more talk with [Chloe Katehis] and the other faculty members behind the decision, they have agreed to allow for an appeal process for students who are applying for multiple high-commitment leadership positions. This is a step in the right direction, but this whole situation could have been avoided if students were involved from the beginning of the process.”
When asked about the reasoning behind these new regulations, Maggie DiMarco, class of 2024 and StudCo VP, explained that, “These new policies aim to improve transparency in what extra aspects of what is expected of certain student leaders (e.g. more meetings with advisors like Emma Wilson, Chloe Katehis, and Rodrigo Sanchez) and better highlight the vast leadership potential our classes offer. Oftentimes, club applications favor those who are popular or charismatic public speakers, but we’re realizing that not all positions really need these qualities. In tandem with some slight application changes, the new policy intends to broaden the field for more students to apply to and hold these high-commitment positions.”
DiMarco also answers the reasoning behind what positions have been designated as ‘high commitment’, noting that, “Many students have brought concerns about which positions are high commitment and which aren’t included (e.g. StudCo and CCE are, while ISP board isn’t). This is partly due to the fact that student life and DEI are phasing these rules in their departments, partly because it’s all they have jurisdiction over, and to see if these rules help bolster a more active, more dedicated, more purposeful club culture here at IMSA.”
With regard to the appeals process that will be implemented for members of the class of 2024, DiMarco highlights that, “arrangements have been made for the junior class of 2024, as these changes come at a pivotal time in their professional development at IMSA. Juniors are encouraged to apply for all positions they are interested in, then appeal via the form sent by email if they are appointed to multiple positions deemed “high-commitment”. These arrangements are not available for CO25.” From conversations with administration, it seems that students are encouraged to apply for any and all positions they wish to be considered for and upon selection, they may choose which positions they will hold and may use the appeal form to appeal any decisions regarding their leadership positions.
Questions & Concerns
Regardless of the appeals process that will be introduced, there still remain some lingering questions and concerns regarding these limits. DiMarco points out that students in positions not designated as ‘high commitment’ could feel demotivated and students wonder how these decisions will influence their resumes and college applications. Others are concerned about students who feel capable of handling more high-commitment positions and are pondering specifics, such as whether club co-presidents count towards rules regarding Student Council chartered clubs.