By: Alex Sorondo/Contributing Writer
Professionalism is, for most people, a mask fastened or shed at the whim of the wearer. For most, the mask is a heavy one and does not fit quite right. It imposes formality and restraint, ties up their tongue with the search for polysyllabic or mature-sounding words; it aims to project a persona that is not always natural: mannerly, verbose, unfazed by the allure of eminence or fame. The fit generally gets better with age, though.
It is clear that the members of the Student Government Association are aiming for professionalism, which is terrific, and they pull it off admirably from time to time. One can tell, however, that the mask is more constricting for some than for others.
The Sept. 26 meeting saw the appointment of a new Veteran Affairs Coordinator. As has repeatedly been the case with recent elections, there was one candidate. He got the job.
While he spoke clearly to introduce himself as a veteran and then address one or two issues, his speech and answers in the subsequent Q&A were hindered by nervousness, a clear bit of stage fright.
This does not necessarily offer testament to how he will perform in his newly-appointed role, but while his military service and student status afford him the necessary credentials for the job, the fact remains that he presented himself in a dim light, providing little information about himself and few compelling arguments as to why he fit the role.
And yet, not only was he asked nothing of even remote substance during the Q&A, but a motion was passed to forego debate and move directly to a vote, which he won by unanimous decision.
I am tempted to think that, on top of being enamored by his military status and thus being reluctant to risk offending him with probing questions, a large factor of his pretty much unquestioned election probably had to do with the fact that veteran affairs are of no pressing concern to anybody in SGA.
Whether or not he does well, the consequences of his appointment will be endured by veterans alone, a quiet campus minority of which SGA bears no members.
Student veterans should have been personally invited to the meeting, if not to vote then at least to ask questions, to shine light on the issues senators could have then debated or even just been aware of. The student veterans may not have shown up, but the direct effort should nonetheless have been made.
It is not addressed with great volume or frequency, but we have all heard about the neglect and mistreatment of veterans, particularly by bureaucracies. Thus, it is understandable that young, impressionable members of a small bureaucratic entity should shy away from the prospect of offending or inconveniencing a veteran. Understandable, but not necessarily acceptable, particularly in this case.
The greatest disservice to veterans here would not be to challenge and drill the one before us, but to not challenge him, to let his potential shortcomings slip by and then impose them on those over whom he will soon have power.
However, I say this not to doubt the aptitude of the new coordinator, but rather to point out what seems to me one of the exceptional characteristics we should henceforth look for in appointing leaders, one of the most important qualities of any authority: the willingness to defy the semantic conventions and rhetorical demands of a hypersensitive culture from time to time, to embrace the reality that somebody somewhere will be disappointed in the choices they make for the best interests of those whom they lead and to make the choice regardless of who takes petty offense.
Do what what needs to be done, in other words. It would make for one hell of a mask.