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The Merit of Peer Leadership

It seems to me that selecting such a large group of seniors for the peer leadership program is counterintuitive to the concept of a leader. It is highly unnecessary to appoint three peer leaders for every twenty freshmen: if a student were really a leader, couldn't the ration be cut to one peer leader for every ten students? Leaders should conceivably be able to effectively focus their goals so that a higher ratio of students to peer leaders would be possible. Furthermore, these peer leaders are selected unfairly and secretly. As viable a program as peer leadership is, it is time that we see some changes.

I remember as a freshman how valuable I found the peer leadership program to be at times; knowing only three students before coming to Menlo, I found freshman orientation a very effective device for initiating socialization with other freshman and meeting new people. However, as my freshman year progressed, I became less and less impressed with the program. At Friday meetings, my peer leaders decided to reject the proposed agenda nine out of ten times, leaving the group with no choice but to sit and stare at walls and wait for the "meeting" to end. At the peer leadership dinner at the conclusion of the semester, only ten percent of my peer group attended; the peer leadership program had essentially disbanded.

As it stands, these leaders are appointed; this is wrong. Change must be implemented in one of two ways: either an objective criteria should be enumerated by a council of some kind, or the process should be entirely democratic. According to a current Menlo senior, those who are rejected from the peer leadership program are not even acknowledged as having applied; this is not only extremely rude in principle, but it is unfair to these applicants, who have no understanding of the reasons behind the rejection. Not only is the current method of selection ineffective in determining a more selective group of peer leaders, but it is also extremely insensitive towards those who are not accepted into the program. If there were a more democratic or tangible system of determining peer leaders, perhaps the program could be salvaged and possibly even improved.

Such a revised selection process would decrease the number of peer leaders. This would greatly improve the program -- as a freshman, I found that my three peer leaders did not function well together. A reduction in the size of the peer leadership program would minimize this problem of dysfunctionality, make the title of "leader" more appropriate, and enable peer meetings to run more effectively and smoothly. This reduction in the number of peer leaders might best be effected through a democratic process, whereby the top ten vote-getters are given peer leader titles and given a group of ten to twelve freshman. The election could conceivably be held among seniors, who know best the people who would be most qualified leaders. Whether the change be a shift towards a more democratic peer leader selection or towards more objective appointment, it is clear that change is necessary, in order to bring true fairness in the selection of applicants and better experiences to freshmen.


This page created for The Subterranean Crusader by John W. Earl. Last modified January 28, 1996.