In a perfect world, college students could do any combination of things and never have a problem, but, as Butler University is not a perfect world, conflicts of interest are an unfortunate byproduct of being an active student leader on campus.
Typically, leaders in student government are also leaders in a variety of other organizations, and Butler is no exception to that rule. Nearly 71 percent of Student Government Association leaders are involved in a Greek organization; a majority of SGA members are also involved in one or more other organizations. Being involved on campus is a great thing—our university wouldn’t function without its student leaders—but when you have people who are loyal to more than one organization, conflict can arise.
It’s hard not to feel loyalty to one or more of the things you get involved in, and without loyalty, no one would feel strongly enough to make any positive changes. But loyalty can also turn around and bite you; it can prevent you from being fair, making unbiased decisions and taking sides in conflicts you should avoid in the first place.
There should be a conflict of interest policy to deal with these situations.
This year, I’ve been more involved than ever, participating in five different organizations in all sectors of campus and student life. I’m also an employee of Butler. I knew that I’d be busy, but I wasn’t aware of the pressures I would feel from different organizations to take sides.
I am an individual with my own opinions and loyalties. I’m not thrilled that the more I choose to get involved, the more my opinions are expected to align with others.’ All of the organizations are excellent sources of student leadership on campus and each one has pros and cons, but I still have the right to choose what to think about them.
As a student who is involved in multiple facets of student life, I wish a conflict of interest policy existed for student leaders on campus, especially those involved in student government. If this policy existed, there would be a hard and fast rule that would protect students if they didn’t want to say anything or wished to abstain from a vote.
Let’s say a member of the grants committee was involved in an outside organization that applied for a grant—with a conflict of interest policy in place, that member would be expected to abstain from any rulings that pertain to their other involvement. This helps achieve fairness and relieves pressure that could be felt by the student from either side.
Butler has a conflict of interest policy in place for faculty, so why not student leaders too? Student government is the main source of action on campus—members of SGA and other student organizations should be held accountable.
A conflict of interest policy helps ensure fairness, a quality we should all strive for in our involvement at Butler.