Don’t waste potential of SG freshman group

The overhaul of Student Government’s freshman program is a good idea in theory, but it could become a revision in name only if SG leaders don’t execute it carefully.

What used to be the Freshman Representative Council is now the Leadership Development Program — a renaming that SG officials say reflects the program’s new focus.

“I didn’t think the name FRC really summed up what it was,” said SG Vice President Brittany Langdon in an Aug. 31 Kernel story. “It is not really a representative council, but about leaders on campus. We wanted to change the program as a whole.”

It’s sensible for the program to emphasize leadership instead of representation, especially since there are already spots reserved for freshmen in the SG Senate. What SG officials need to do now is ensure that the LDP’s role lives up to its name.

Under SG’s guidance, LDP members should be planning events, dealing with administrators and working with a budget — the kinds of things campus leaders do every day. Hearing guest speakers and networking with upperclassmen can be worthwhile, but what prospective leaders really need is hands-on experience.

SG President Nick Phelps said he expects the revamped program to help with freshman retention. To do that, the program should be oriented outward — that is, LDP members should be interacting with fellow freshmen from all kinds of social circles and bringing their thoughts back to SG. If SG officials don’t know what freshmen — especially those who are most at risk of dropping out — are thinking, they won’t be able to work on the retention problem.

Above all, Phelps and Langdon need to recognize that the LDP is only the start of the overhaul process. They should take an active role in reshaping the program by evaluating its progress throughout the school year and making adjustments as necessary.

If students from outside SG aren’t seeing the LDP involved in campus life, that would be a good sign the new program is failing.