My son passed his Eagle board of review in late September and I was invited to join the district advancement committee to review Eagle projects in mid-October. A few days later, the new advancement book was released, so I’ve been reviewing it in detail.
These changes are now in force. The BSA Advancement Resources page has links to the 2011 Guide to Advancement and the 2011 Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook. Scouts with an approved project should continue with the workbook they are using. I recommend that everyone else use the new workbook. The precise rules on when to to switch are on the advancement resources page, linked above.
I’ll focus on changes that matter for candidates and Scoutmasters. Eagle Boards of Review are covered in section 8.0.3, and section 9 is dedicated to the Eagle process.
Section 22.214.171.124 has a list of “red-flag items” for the application. This is a great list and should save everyone time in the process. I would add that the listed merit badges must be earned before their associated ranks, so I strongly encourage candidates to list merit badges in chronological order. This also makes it easier when you apply for Eagle palms.
For references, there is a new bias towards responsiveness to the candidate. The old rules specified that if there was no response from a reference, the committee “must make direct contact with the reference(s)…” Now, section 126.96.36.199 says, “A board of review cannot be denied or postponed due to unresponsive references.” Also, responses from references are now confidential and destroyed at the end of the process.
There is a one-word change to Eagle requirement 5, plus two-thirds of section 9 are devoted to the Eagle project, clearing up a wide variety of grey areas.
Requirement 5 for Eagle says “The project plan must be approved …” and gives a list of approvers. Starting in 2012 (or maybe a bit earlier), this will read “project proposal” instead of “project plan“.
Up to now, Eagle project approval has required final plans with detailed steps, materials, and costs. That level of detail is no longer needed, and approvers must not require it.
The Eagle project workbook is being revised to reflect this change, with separate sections for a proposal and a plan, with signatures at the end of the proposal section.
The Scout still needs to do a detailed plan, but it is now considered part of the project. That project plan is reviewed by the Eagle Board of Review instead of by the district or council approver, and it is evaluated as part of the leadership that the Scout has shown.
This change stops the practice of rejecting a plan after many hours of preparation by the Scout. Approving a proposal respects the Scout’s time and puts the project evaluation where it should be, with the Board of Review.
Eagle Project is a Unit Activity
The Eagle project is now considered a unit activity and requires two-deep leadership and risk management. The Guide to Safe Scouting will be revised to cover tools commonly used in Eagle projects. BSA insurance now covers Eagle projects.
As before, Eagle projects must not be pure fundraising. There are two changes to any fundraising that is part of the project. First, a fundraising application must be filed with the council. This form is in the new project workbook. The second change is about leftover funds. The 2009 workbook says that excess funds “must be returned to the donors.” Section 188.8.131.52 of the new guidelines says that funds raised must be placed in an account with the unit or the beneficiary and that the beneficiary “will retain leftover funds.” My son was lucky that his project went over budget and used up the excess funds, because returning them to the garage sale patrons would have been rather difficult.
Section 184.108.40.206 says, “The workbook should not, however, become a source for rejecting candidates based on ‘technicalities’ that have nothing to do with requirement intent.” This could include missing signatures from people who were not available, or starting a project before the approval. Again and again, the guidelines make it clear that the requirement is to lead a service project, not to fill out a workbook, and that the role of the adults is to help the Scout advance, not to put up roadblocks.
It appears that Scouting has a widespread problem with Scoutmasters who delay Scouts because they “are not ready for Eagle” or who put additional requirements in the way. The Guide to Advancement prohibits this explicitly and adds safeguards to keep it from happening. For example, councils and troops cannot create their own Eagle project workbook. One of the listed duties for all advancement committees is following the official Eagle process.
If a Scoutmaster insists on delaying a Scout, there is a procedure for going ahead without a signature (see the next section).
It is sad that this is such a widespread problem, but I’m glad to see the BSA putting their foot down about it.
Eagle Board of Review in Disputed Circumstances
A Scout can submit an application and have a Board of Review without some signatures in specific situations. From section 220.127.116.11:
… when a unit leader or committee chair does not sign the application, if a Scoutmaster conference is denied, if it is thought a unit will not provide a fair hearing, or if the unit leader or project beneficiary refuses to sign final approval for what might be considered a satisfactory service project.
This process is for intentional refusals, in addition to the allowances for mistakes and omissions.
It is great to have this all in one place and made so clear. This info used to be spread across multiple places, at least across “red book” and the back page of the Eagle project workbook (took me forever to notice that). The new book is clear, well-organized, and focused on helping the Scout advance and grow.
If you have any Life Scouts in your troop, read the sections on Eagle, then read them again. I’m printing out copies of section 9 for each Scout that I counsel about an Eagle project.
If I’ve missed anything in the summary or misinterpreted anything, please comment.