What To Vote For in a Student Council Election
April 6, 2016 • 546 views
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Posters fill the hallways, embossed with puns, slogans, and photo-shopped faces on inanimate objects. Tis’ the season.
The average kid is pretty apathetic towards student council elections; especially among my nerdy friend group, the consensus seems to be that the funny candidates win, the people with good ideas lose, and that a single speech determines the entire election. All true, but not all bad.
A student council officer’s job, irrespective of position, is generally to represent student interests, and help enact change. That means hearing kids out who are dissatisfied with school start times, or toilet paper, or funding for clubs. That means being fired up about the issues—setting up meetings with Mr. Eveslage or the head of custodial services, armed with petitions and polls. And it means making strong cases for students’ rights—communicating well with adults, being likable, and driving every argument home during meetings. More simply, an officer has to listen, be passionate and likable, and speak well. A great officer, then, doesn’t have to a great generator of ideas—ideas can come from anywhere—and the quality of their campaign speech should be a fine indicator of how successful they can be as a future officer.
Perhaps the greater issue isn’t who’s elected, but the disconnect between student council and the greater student body. I always hated it when I heard kids talk about how little student council does, but who can blame them? From the outside, beyond Mr. Harriton, it probably doesn’t look like much. And, although student council meetings are always public, I’ve never seen a non-student council member come to a meeting. Where’s the incentive? And it isn’t that people outside of student council don’t care about the school, or don’t have ideas to improve it—many of them just don’t see student council as a real platform to change anything. If you wanted to set up a new club, you wouldn’t email a student council member; you’d email Mr. Ferguson. Ditto if you wanted more vegan options in the cafeteria. The lack of respect that student council gets almost defeats the purpose of it; most kids don’t take advantage of the fact that our President already has scheduled meetings with Mr. Eveslage, where he can discuss any students’ rights issue.
A solution? Having student body meetings in addition to student council meetings. Imagine the entire school in the auditorium, with an open platform for students to make suggestions, or voice concerns. The President could give a “state of the union address”, and talk about what the student council was currently working on, and poll the entire student body on key issues. More important than any pep rally, student body meetings could give Council more importance in the eyes of the average Harriton student, and give that kid’s ideas an opportunity to be heard.
As the student council elections near, candidate’s ideas are certainly worth noting—but perhaps more important is their ability to listen, and their plans to ensure that every student at Harriton can be heard.