In general, I’ve come to hold a healthy mistrust for anyone that purports to be a “leader,” particularly if the preponderance of evidence to that effect is in the pronouncement itself. In my few years here at PSU, that mistrust has grown into a full-fledged skepticism that, I’ll admit, borders on prejudice. So, when I was approached last week about doing a piece about PSU’s Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP), I leapt to the idea. I was aware of their involvement with flyering policies, but that was about it. But the name itself suggested that the subject would be right up my alley.
The lightning-rod for the SALP these days is advisor Natalee Webb. Judging by the posts on the Vanguard’s response boards, Ms. Webb comes across a little like Almodovar – you either love her work and sneer at those who don’t “get it,” or you absolutely detest her machinations. Upon my mental entry into the fray, it seemed as though I was as close to a dispassionate observer as could be found.
This year’s student election was the first time I’d ever declined to vote in an election for which I was eligible. Devaney/Woon seemed too dreamy, Barron/Craven too right-wing … But perhaps I was a little harsh on these four, when I should have been focusing their over-arching agency, SALP.
SALP’s mission statement according to their web site is “to engage all students in leadership, critical thinking, community responsibility and professional growth by complementing academic learning with appropriate cocurriculum opportunities.”
Sounds pretty good, but where’s the evidence that they do anything like that?
Ms. Webb’s most salient recent exploits have involved the College Republicans’ parody of the Devaney/Woon slate, her strident e-mails to senators-elect of ASPSU demanding their resignations and her April Fool’s “joke,” a false resignation from her position at SALP. Now, I appreciate a good laugh, and guerilla humor can be a fabulous way to shatter the encumbrances of excessive gravitas, but Webb’s actions in these cases display her ignorance of the ASPSU constitution and a disturbing imbalance in her perception of when it is or isn’t appropriate to pull a joke.
Her covering of the parodical poster was an action of hide-bound correctness that displayed no tolerance for the humor of the situation. Her rush to action in the e-mail incident negated an opportunity for a more reasonable solution. Her interpretation of the election rules led to confusion. Finally, her fake resignation, including lying about its seriousness to Lauren Josi, OSPIRG coordinator at the time, who went to Webb and specifically asked if the resignation was an April Fool’s joke. Now she’s tossed rules and protocol out the window. Does she fancy herself a Prankster or a cop?
Webb’s response to the outrage at her joke? “I love humor!” She topped off this well-reasoned explanation with the even more responsible, “I plan to continue on as the entangler of ASPSU.”
If someone like student senate candidate Cassandra Fowler “threatens the life” of the Republican toadies’ wiener-dog, out she goes! What an outrage! But if a person in power decides to fake her own resignation, then lie about it to her advisees, it’s just a joke – get over it!
Unfortunately, the joke’s on us. Why should someone like Ms. Webb take it upon herself to question the mandate of a record number of student voters? With no irregularities in the voting process itself, she should keep her hands off the results, but instead it seems she’s gone out of her way to interfere with them. Her initial salvo of aggressive e-mails to student senators-elect contained no mention of an appeals process, and she proudly crows her role as “entangler” of ASPSU.
I don’t find it funny at all. What kind of adviser would say something like that? It wasn’t a private aside to a friend, it was in a group e-mail sent out to her advisees, and it was chillingly inappropriate, given recent events.
We can argue funny/not funny or right/not right until we’re blue in the face, but one thing is apparent: Webb’s actions display questionable judgment, to say the least. She owes her advisees, and the student body as a whole, an explanation, or perhaps she owes them her job.
Riggs Fulmer can be reached at [email protected]