The Convention Game

April 28th, 2007 by bebersghost

I’ve staffed many regional conventions. Generally I’ve enjoyed them except for one part – the “game” that seems to get played at night. What is the game? Call it, if you will “let’s see if we can break the rules and not get caught.” Whether it’s drugs or alcohol, or sneaking into each others rooms (girls in guys cabins and vice versa), or going out and doing various pranks, it seems to happen to various degrees at many conventions. Sometimes the regional board joins in (or worse, instigates the activities).

Most members don’t even understand why this is a problem. I’ve heard individuals explain “pot isn’t even as bad as tobacco”, “we were just hanging out – nothing happened”, “it’s just a harmless prank – it’s traditional”.

And they are right – but in being right they completely miss the point.


The problem is that the reasoning they are using is “school” reasoning – it doesn’t take into account the unique nature of BBYO as a youth led organization. There are three reasons why “the convention game” should not be a part of BBYO.

Reason #1:
The rules (or at least some of them), are controlled by the youth. Can people switch rooms after they assigned? That’s not policy – that’s something usually decided by the convention coordinator – their goal being to get people from different chapters to mix. All staff usually cares about is that by curfew we have an accurate room list to use in the event of an emergency. Issues that are policy were often set, at least in part by regional or IBoard. The “convention game” expresses disrespect for the democracy that is BBYO, as members are choosing to break the rules rather than change them.

Reason #2:
By playing the game, members establish an “us against them” relationship between the members and staff. This forces staff into the role of cops. This is completely contrary to what the role of staff should be in BBYO – staff and advisors are supposed to be supporting the members, not policing them. It should be the job of regional board to enforce the rules among their peers – that’s what youth leadership means. When regional board does not enforce the nighttime rules, they are abandoning their position and responsibilities, and even the ideal of BBYO as being a truly youth led organization.

Reason #3:
Most important of all, consider this: Every single participant at convention signs an agreement to follow the convention rules. They may not agree with the rules, but they made a commitment to follow them during convention. When someone breaks those rules, they are breaking their word. They are acting without honor. They are acting like irresponsible thoughtless children rather than the men and women they desire to be.

Does this sound harsh? Perhaps. But BBYO is all about developing leadership and character, and the “convention game” is not really about breaking rules and getting away with stuff – it’s really about character. It’s about members choosing to be responsible members of a community where they take the lead on defining the rules and traditions of that community. It’s about leaders taking responsibility for the actions of the community even when it is difficult or unpopular. It’s about individuals making commitments and keeping them despite temptation to the contrary.

Those who play the “convention game” aren’t just breaking rules. They are violating the standards of the community. They are abandoning BBYO values. And above all, they are showing themselves to be untrustworthy. And these are far worse sins than getting high, getting some action, or pulling a prank.

5 Responses to “The Convention Game”

  1. Oyster Says:

    IMNSHO, there’s a difference in consequence for chapter and regional leaders.

    If a chapter’s leaders disrupt a chapter’s activities, there are consequences. I don’t believe that there’s any equivalent consequence to regional leaders disrupting conventions.

    If the setting of an over-night regional conference with a given year’s regional board is thought of as some sort of abstract “chapter”, then it’s a chapter that meets, what, 4 or 5 times a year? It’s very hard to set up a social order of leadership and mutual respect amongst members if they just meet 5 times a year, let alone the additional difficulties when you consider it as a region, and not some sort of ‘meta-chapter’.

  2. bebersghost Says:

    Well, the social order of leadership is presumably set up during regional elections.
    And there is one really big difference between regional board and chapter board: Chapter board is presumably in the process of learning these leadership skills (that are really rather basic). By the time you’re elected to regional board, you presumably know these things and are ready to handle the more challenging task of regional leadership.
    And if this web site serves to help them learn a bit more on the topic, so much the better:-)

  3. BBGLover Says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    As a current regional leader, I feel that it is the regional board’s job to regulate their peers’ actions before getting the staff involved. Unless someone is going to be seriously injured, I’d rather kick boys out of a cabin myself and stay quiet than alert a staff member and have harsher than necessary actions taken, especially for a first offense.

    My biggest frustration is exactly what you expressed in reason #1. I am a stickler for policy and rules and have been since elementary school. Yet the more obvious rules (in my opinion) are the ones I’ve found the most opposition to when I’ve tried to enforce them among my peers.

    If a chapter business meeting starts during Shabbat and I tell that chapter, they usually apologize and change it without an issue. But when I found two boys in a girls’ room at 3 AM at a recent convention, I was faced with fighting and criticism. I was told to “laugh it off” and to “stop being such a (regional board member) for a minute.”

    I was incredibly hurt by the second incident. I could have easily run to a staff’s room and gotten both the boys and girls in serious trouble. But I wanted to trust that they were mature enough to learn from their mistakes without adult intervention. Too often, even youth leaders in the highest areas of BBYO have not matured fully. (See the CLTC coordinator who was sent home for an after-curfew “meeting” with a participant.)

    You mention that too often regional leaders do not enforce the rules or break them themselves. Do you have advice for those of us who do value the rules, try to gently but firmly enforce them, and are ignored? I don’t follow policy to suck up to regional staff or parents. I happen to have an extensive knowledge of not only policy, but the reasoning behind it (especially related to the extent of BBYO’s liability).

    How can I express that I’m not trying to act like a suck up? I’m just trying to do my job as a leader. I don’t care what people do on their own time outside of BBYO. But conventions are only 5 times a year and I believe participants should be able to control their hormones and impulses for 48 hours, for their safety and comfort, and the safety and comfort of their peers (especially younger members).

  4. tommy Says:

    Yes, conventions are “only 5 times a year” or even less. But that is the whole reason for the increased hormones. Think: you’re bringing together Jewish teens from different cities and states together for a few days. Conventions are often the only times when these kids see each other. Don’t you think their hormones are going to be going off the whazoo? They can control themselves at home. But when they get to see these people for the first time in many months, of course it will be much harder for them to control themselves. For this reason, I think some of the rules need to be relaxed just a bit. I’m from Mid-America Region, and I think that some rules need to be more lax.

    Advisors know that people hook up at convention. In fact, one of the main reasons behind Jewish youth organizations is for Jewish youth to meet other Jewish youth of the opposite sex, decreasing their risk for intermarriage. Of course, sex, pot, and alcohol should not be allowed. But the occasional hook up (not necessarily sexual), or at least allowing guys and girls to hang out without being policed all the time, should be allowed. Many of these kids go to public school and their only Jewish affiliation is through BBYO. Why not let them explore and take advantage of the opportunity to meet more young Jews?

    In BBYO, there is a time for brotherhood and sisterhood. And then there is a time for social life.

  5. AZAman Says:

    This is great speculation. Many people go to regional events to hookup. Though this is not a good reason to go, they put themselves out there to attend this event. There should be opportunities for people to hookup, but this should now be taken too far.

    Many rules are set out so lawsuits are not in question. For example: If a hookup time was arranged, and two people sneak off, many hoorible things could happen. Without question, rape could come into issue. This is not something BBYO should not have to deal with.

    By having a time where AZAs and BBGs could hookup, but in an enclosed area, this would meet everyones needs.

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