Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Leading a Divided Group (Nicole Wilken)



With Obama winning 51.4% of the popular vote in the recent election, leadership of a divided group is a relevant issue to address. Once the democratic vote has spoken, how does a leader move on with confidence knowing that the group was divided in the decision? On Tuesday, the members of SALT voted to support Red Cloud Indian School for this year’s World Relief Campaign. This school is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is considered one of the poorest places in the United States. Our funds will be used to buy document cameras so that the school can implement a new reading program with their limited funding. The Red Cloud Indian School depends on private donations for more than 95% of its operating budget and provides free tuition for its students. Because textbooks and other materials are so expensive, the document cameras will allow the teachers to only buy one copy of updated reading materials that can then be used by the entire class.

During the SALT meeting on Tuesday, we heard from representatives from the four finalist organizations and had the opportunity to ask any remaining questions about the applications or projects. Then we had a blind vote, where everyone received one slip of blank paper and they put it in one of the paper bags that were labeled with the project titles. Though the voting process is pretty simple, the implications of our vote will affect the work we do in SALT for the rest of the school year. The vote was so close that we ended up voting twice: once for the final four and then again between the top two choices. Even in this last selection, the vote was only split by three people in a group of more than forty SALTers who attended the meeting.

The obvious challenge with a democratic vote is that not everyone’s first choice project will be represented. Moving forward with this collective decision, I see my role as the WRC Chair to get people invested and excited about the project we have chosen before our work begins in the spring. Realistically, we will have a lot to think about next semester in raising $15,000. More than anything, I see the WRC as an opportunity to learn more about a particular social justice issue and how those ideas can be communicated to people on campus and in the community. Even though the project we chose does not reflect every SALTers’ first choice, I think it important for us to remember that there were no bad applications – each of the project proposals we received offered a unique understanding of how to live out social justice in the world. The biggest disservice we can do is to close ourselves off from the community of SALT without knowing how this experience will change us and our mentalities about the issues that exist for children at the Red Cloud School.

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