Earlier today I was forwarded a statement by the Grand Aleph Godol and International N’siah regarding some of the policy changes. I wanted to reflect on one of them:

2. MYTH: Upon arrival at the house for an overnight, the owner of the house will confiscate all keys for the duration of the evening.
FACT: The adult supervisors at a Chapter overnight will collect and hold the car keys of all participants who drive to the event. This makes sense, since our policy has always stated that leaving an event and returning is prohibited, so there is no reason to have your keys.

This sounds so innocent and reasonable. Yet it is problematic on a number of levels. It’s like the argument that might be made by a truly right-wing prosecutor: if you are not a criminal, surely you would have no problem with the police searching your house without cause, right?
BBYO does have a longstanding policy about leaving an event and returning, and it is a very good policy for numerous reasons that I won’t go into now. So why would it matter if the adult supervisors take your keys?

The reason it matters is because of the message it sends and the attitude it communicates. Taking members keys says two things:

  1. You cannot be trusted to keep your word.
  2. The adult supervisors are there to police and enforce the rules. They are, in short, your opponent.

Both of these messages are fundamentally contradictory to the principles of BBYO. As I see it, Alephs and BBGs are perfectly capable of understanding and following policy. They can and should be expected to keep their promises with regards to rules such as not driving away at night.
Adult supervisors are not police. Our job is to interpret and teach policy so that chapter leaders can understand and enforce them. Misguided policies such as this reframe the relationship into an adversarial one – which harms the relationship between advisor and chapter and ultimately harms both.
I believe members are capable and deserving of trust on this matter. I would rephrase the policy thus:
At a chapter overnight, no participant may leave the event once the overnight portion of the event has begun and until dawn (the exact times to be determined by the adult supervisor at the event). The consequences for leaving the event without permission will be determined by the chapter advisor and regional director and may include suspension from BBYO and prohibition from attending future overnights.
This approach is very different. It does not question the trustworthiness of the members, nor does it impose additional responsibility and liability on the advisors. It has consequences, but these are appropriate. You see, any member who can’t be trusted to follow this policy doesn’t deserve to attend overnights and probably isn’t worthy of the title Aleph or BBG.
This may seem idealistic, but it really isn’t. I’ve staffed many overnights, and once we’ve sent home those who weren’t staying for the overnight portion of the event, the drivers have always respected this policy. I’ve never felt the need to take their keys in order to have my call respected.
And as I see it, If you’re an advisor, and the only way you feel you can get members to not drive off is to take their keys, you’re chapter isn’t ready for an overnight anyway and you shouldn’t clear it in the first place.
And if you’re a member, and you don’t understand why this (or any other policy exists), talk to your advisor about it. But understand it or not, know that when you go to an overnight (or any other event); you are making a personal commitment to follow this policy. And as an Aleph or BBG, your commitment should be all that is ever necessary.