Tough Commissioner Question
Sat, 30 Jul 1994 21:22:19 EDT
Mike, you gave us a goody to mull over. I'm going to split this baby into
the pieces needed to discuss properly.
>Here's a tough one: You are an ADC. Your bright new Unit Commissioner,
>Jumpin' Jim has spent months developing a degree of rapport with Ivan
>"Independent Ivan" Doitmyway, the Scoutmaster of an old large troop. Jim
>tells you that he's really becoming successful at hearing what goes on and
>is a little more than distressed.
Well, I'm glad to hear that Jumpin' Jim can talk to Ivan the Terrible. Has
other Unit Commissioner been able to cross that hurdle? How long did it
take him to get there?
>At the last campout he heard that young Scouts were severely hazed
>(covered with peanut butter and moss, scared by costumed invaders in
>the camp, etc) and that the only activity besides camping and cooking
>was dungeons and dragons, which started Friday and ran through
>Sunday. None of the Scouts worked on ranks, unless their father
>was an ASM or at the Campout.
Who did the complaining? Parents who were not at the camp? Parents
of the new boys? Who? What were the trips objectives? Maybe
that was all that wasreally planned by the boys - D&D, that is.
Sometimes a camping trip is just a camping trip. However, the leadership
of the troop should have worked some scoutcraft skills into the weekend
for the newer boys. But from the looks of it, some advancement work was
being done, although not as much as was sufficient in Jim's opinion.
Now, for the real issue: the hazing. We all know that the policies forbid
hazing, but we also know that it happens sometimes, anyway - no matter
how hard the adult leaders try to clamp down on it. I am not condoning
hazing - it is demeaning and can be dangerous - but it does happen.
>Jumpin' Jim can barely contain himself, he thinks the SM should be
>fired, etc. Despite all of this, you know that the troop produces three
>to five Eagle Scouts a year and has pretty steady advancement overall.
>You also know that the SM has been through training and has the
>Training Award, Scouter's Key and Scoutmaster's Award of Merit.
>What do you do?
How many years has Ivan been a leader? how many years since he was
trained? Does Ivan help staff training courses? Has he been through
Wood Badge? Has he been through Youth Protection Program training?
Does he otherwise stay updated?
Realizing that different management styles will produce different results,
here is what I would do as an ADC if in this situation (keep in mind that
an ADC function is primarily support, and not really a charge function):
1) Calm Jim down!!!!!
2) Ask Jim the aforementioned questions, as well as any other relevant
ones which come up during the discussion. They are crucial to any
3) Gather information and discuss with the District Commissioner. Any
action taken should primarily be between Ivan and Jim, but since Jim is
new, he will need additional consultation and advice on handling the
4) Under no circumstances should Jim be allowed to go in with guns
a-blazing. He could manage to alienate Ivan, not only against Jim, but also
the entire Commissioner Staff. Besides, if the Chartered Organization is
happy with Ivan's results, then they will support him to the death, so to
If the hazing allegation was from overheard conversation between the
boys or a direct notification by one of the victims ("Boy, Tommy
sure looked funny as a swamp thing", or "Mr Jim, guess what happened
last campout?"), then Jim should quietly talk to Ivan after the meeting,
and NOT in front of the boys: make up a parable about a troop
(NOT in this council, never in this district) that you heard had a hazing get
out of hand and someone got hurt; now parents were up in arms and the
Scoutmaster was in hot water, with no support from local council or BSA,
because he did not follow policy. (There are plenty of these stories to go
around, unfortunately - make it far enough away that he will not be easily
able to verify, and be vague about the particulars; make it sound like a
grapevine story the more apocryphal the better.)
Ivan should then be told "I would hate to see any of my fellow Scout Leaders
fall into the same pit." Unless Ivan is a maroon, then he will get the hint,
losing face. Then in the next sentence, Jim should suggest Ivan get updated
his YPP if he has not done so already. The YPP is to prevent things from
happening that would leave the leadership in that cold and lonely place - out
on a limb and twisting in the wind.
If JIm does not have the savvy to pull it off, then the ADC should go through
the same charade, especially if the ADC and Ivan have anything resembling a
Finally, Jim should be tactfully reminded that his job description does NOT
include firing scoutmasters (only the Chartered Organization with Troop
Committee support can do this), only crisis intervention in times of need.
I would then make some follow-up observations with periodic phone calls
between Jim and me, and maybe tagging along with Jim to a couple of meetings.
I would also get Ivan to help staff the District Scout Leader Training (with
blessing of the District Training Team Chairmand) - but NOT policy don'ts
or YPP - he will HAVE to follow the book, and he will be a "captive"
audience to any issue that needs recycling.
Unfortunately, I was in the position of initiating a firing of a scoutmaster.
made no recommendations, but I did get the Chartered Organization and Troop
Committee stirred up. The Scoutmaster quit attending, and the youth leader-
ship had no good adult examples, so the program went to H*** in a handbasket
real fast. Committee Chairman was attending, and he was ready to quit - what
was _I_ going to do about it?
I told him that he needed to call the Committee together, and get the
Representative there, as well as the Scoutmaster. I got the District
there, and we all talked it out. They got a new Scoutmaster AND Committee
Chairman at the same time - attitudes improved and the troop is doing much
better. They have had three Eagles in the last year, and should have a
by December; more 1st Classes too.
BTW, I went on record that the Scoutmaster should not be "fired", but that
Committee needed to give him more support, with a more positive attitude,
they apparently have. After all, the boys who were being impacted were
Boy, that was a good hypothetical situation. Maybe I'll use it in my
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City