For those of you who don’t know, RPI TV passed a new constitution this week slashing the officer number in half and reducing the voting members to those active in a given semester instead of those active in the past year. I’ve been involved in RPI TV for a pretty long time, since the fall of 2006 when I was a Freshmen at RPI; at times Katie (my girlfriend) “jokes” that I’m actually dating RPI TV because of all the time I spend thinking / working / discussing club business. Alas, I’ve shared many thoughts about RPI TV in the past here, so let me do that again.
I’ll start at the beginning. I wasn’t lucky enough to be in the RPI TV NRB activity like 80% – 90% percent of the club. For whatever reason that check box (I definitely checked it) wasn’t processed by FYE so I awkwardly signed up at the Activities Fair while the officers were distracted talking amongst themselves. I’m glad they were distracted, it would have been much more intimidating for me otherwise. I attended a Business Meeting, passed along my credentials to Eric to join the club, and later emailed Andy about filming a Senate Meeting. At the business meetings I kept to myself, not knowing anyone else in the club as only Andy and Eric filmed Senate with me, I suspect most people didn’t know my name.
Election season rolled around in the winter and I was determined to help improve the club, becoming an officer seemed like the only route to doing that (again, see my previous posts for more motivation behind that) but I didn’t have a strong feeling what I should run for or who was going to run for what nor how many key players were sticking around or graduating, so I figured I should set my sights fairly low and try to run unopposed (I likely would have lost if I was up against someone else… or so tradition dictates for me). The election meeting rolled along and I was never nominated for anything, as if there was a chance I would be. When the final position (literally the eleventh officer), News Manager, was up for election no one was nominating anyone. Apparently all the key players and prodigies had won an office so there was silence.
Luckily, it wasn’t silent for too long. Charlie, who had just been elected President, nominated Andy’s mom for the position. Everyone lol’ed at that idea because being absent, she had accepted her nomination by default. I decided to raise my hand and nominate myself for the position because I like news. Awkward, I know. Everyone had to stop lol’ing and was like “oh, this kid is serious”. As friends (or future friends, like the case with other new members) most people have an idea who will run for what and can nominate each other for it. Not having the luxury of friends (or even co-planar colleagues), I had to awkwardly nominate myself. Luckily, Andy’s mom wasn’t actually there to answer questions or anything and I don’t think anyone asked me anything. I won.
That story doesn’t depress me very much, and I’ve made it a point to nominate myself for all future positions in RPI TV. For what it’s worth, Charlie has apologized several times, but I can’t blame him, I was a nobody at the time. I also think I’ve, at times, demonstrated my value to the organization which is what matters much more than how you got to a position whereby you can create value.
It seems in recent years the cool thing to do is to downsize the RPI TV officer pool in an attempt to make things “stronger” or more “efficient” or something like that. I don’t understand “stronger” at all, I hope it doesn’t mean more unified or more complacent. I could see where efficiency can be pulled out, but I think you can have just as terrible as a time with 3 officers as you could with 11 or any number in between. I also don’t think the number of chairs in the room actually have much at all to do with how the club operates, but it’s the people in those chairs. Yes, it might be a drag to have some non-contributing folks in seats sometimes but I worry that, like my freshman year, someone who hasn’t had a chance to contribute publicly will be passed over. I’m also not sure I see the reverse happening, the addition of more official officer roles if there are more interested people. The constitution is almost always written by someone who plans to have a lot of responsibility in the club, and it would take a special person to give away that responsibility.
I offered a brief form of this story at the business meeting, which took more of an emotional toll on me than I expected. While I didn’t record my voice, I felt like I was choking up. My point wasn’t about me, I turned out OK I think, but for someone who finds themselves in a similar situation to me… contributing to the club in a very non-standard way (filming senate) and looking to do more. What I offered wasn’t really a question, and I completely forgot that there was an answer already in the bag. The response includes a “plan” (nothing written or formal yet) to create an ad-hoc group of second-hand officers that don’t really count for anything but can still feel special. Obviously this is described with nicer words, but without formal language written anywhere it’s all very abstract still. I ended up feeling like my story was turned into a political soapbox to reassure people they’ll be able to get involved if they want, and I was sufficiently rattled as to no longer want to press the issue.
I cast my yay vote and dashed out of the room.
<dramatic pause here>
If I was writing a chapter in a book, I would hang up the towel now and leave you to your imagination to figure out the rest. This is no story you’ll find on the shelves of your local bookstore.
Knowing this was going to come up for a vote, I had serious reservations if I should say anything at all. I don’t like telling people no or speaking against ideas because I won’t be on the front lines to help with any fallout, but I also heard Mike in the back of my head telling me to speak my mind instead of blogging about it later. This time I have done both, I am not sure if it worked any better actually.
In past, like last year, I didn’t have much trouble at all expressing my doubts over the then proposed new constitution. This year was different, I ended up not wanting people to hate me for expressing my opinions much more than I wanted to express them. I think it boils down to the fact that I don’t want to be viewed as that grumpy old guy in the corner that no one likes. This year in particular, I’m not in a situation where people are forced to interact with me ever and there is no reason for people to “get over it” if I were to upset them. It’s scary for me to identify this, but I don’t want to leave this place alone, some reminder it happened (besides 2 pieces of paper in a drawer somewhere). I already don’t provide much social value to others (i.e. hangout time with brian != desirable), but I try and be useful in more work-related environments like RPI TV or WTG. I faced a similar situation in high school I think, leaving the Tiger Times and all, but dating Katie made it easier to feel connected.
There are certainly times when I feel I should just quit while I’m “ahead”, toss in the towel and “enjoy” what time I have left here. I’ve put out more than my fair share of fires, and I think I’ve earned the opportunity to smile once in a while. Sometimes I feel a little tired having to always defend the status quo in a land where change tends to be cool just because it’s different. Then I wake up (interpret that both mentally and physically) and see the 2 dozen new emails / dispatches that require attention and ditch that plan. There are never enough firefighters in the world.
P.S. A slight deviation from SOP, if you have any questions / comments / concerns you can try to talk to me about them offline instead of just online… but you can be online as well. I haven’t read the “Overcoming Passive Aggression” book that someone left on my desk over the summer, but I realize that posting a comment might not be sufficient.