Re: More on the OA
Bruce E. Cobern (bec@PIPELINE.COM)
Mon, 10 Aug 1998 14:36:19 -0400
I have several questions regarding the situation in your large troop with
regards to unit elections. You may take any of them as suggestions for
possible ways to improve the situation.
First, do you have preprinted ballots listing those eligible to be used by
the election team when they conduct the election? There is nothing in the
OA rules which prohibits this and many with large troops have found that
the "work" to list something like 25 names (half or so of the 50 you have
eligible, although they COULD vote for all) is something that most Scout
aged young men will not do. Thus, by each Scout having the eligible list
in front of them to either check or circle the names of those they want to
vote for it becomes easier and you might see an increase in the average
number of names voted for on each ballot.
Second, do you (or the SM if you are not) sit down with each potentially
eligible Scout to ascertain whether he is really interested in standing
for election? If many of the Scouts "could care less" about the OA, aside
from indicating that the lodge has a unit relations problem, removing the
names of those clearly not interested from the process will reduce the
number of Scouts to be considered by the members of the troop.
Third, do you or anyone else spend any time with the troop (either on the
night of the election or prior) to explain, in greater detail than the
election team might, what it is that the Scouts should be looking for when
they vote? I agree that those troops where the SM (and therefore many of
his Scouts as well) is active tends to get better results, but I believe
that is because they are better able to convey the meaning of the election
and what the OA is really all about. I believe that EVERY troop should
make sure its SM (if he meets the camping requirement) is a member of the
lodge and that the lodge adult selection committee should essentially give
a "free pass" to any SM nominated by his troop. OA/Unit relations improve
dramatically when the SM is a member, and even more dramatically when he
is an active member.
Fourth, does the SM use his prerogative to NOT list a Scout who has met
the rank and camping requirements on the ballot because he feels that he
does not meet the Scout Spirit requirement, which the SM must certify to
in advance? While I feel that this power should be used sparingly (and
not to limit those eligible to those the SM wishes to see elected), it can
be used to keep those who he feels are clearly ineligible from the ballot.
Fifth, does your lodge's/chapter's election team use the video which was
produced by national and released at the 92 NOAC? I know it is hard to
come by now and has some errors due to changes in procedures, but use of
the video insures a consistent message to the troops about what the OA and
the election process is all about. Hopefully national will realize that
they had it right back then when they released the video and will update
and re-release it reflecting the current election procedures.
Finally, I would agree with those who recommend that you schedule your
election before the bulk of your Webelos cross over. While lack of
familiarity with those eligible is a problem in all troops, it is a
particular problem in the large troops where it can take an unusually long
time for the new members of the troop to get to know the older members and
form some rational assessment of their competence for this and other
reasons. Sure, you can strongly advise them NOT to vote, but holding your
election before they bridge eliminates this problem.
In summary, in about 25 years as an adviser, mostly as Chapter Adviser or
Inductions Adviser, I have seen my share of elections which became
popularity contests, but I have also been surprised time and time again at
the ability of the members of a troop to understand who their true leaders
were, and not merely the most popular. Somehow, when they have a problem,
they know who the competent people who will help them are (whether or not
they are the most popular) and there is no reason they can't be trained to
vote for these same leaders for induction into the OA.
It is not always easy, especially with a very large troop, but with a
little work and cooperation by the troop and the lodge/chapter, it CAN be
made to work.
Bruce E. Cobern
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City