The Purpose of Student Government

Brandon Friez is currently serving as the Vice President of the tenth-grade class. 

Student government has long been the subject of fascination and confusion. In a survey I conducted among different grades and positions in the school, I asked what they thought the purpose of student government was. I found that an overwhelming majority of students believe that student government is a body meant to represent students and provide a window into the administration’s thoughts and opinions. Although this is a reality in some ways, student representation is often misunderstood along with the structural limits in place against student government. The student government at Allderdice, in its current form, allows for two elected student delegates from the ninth, tenth and eleventh grades and four from the twelfth graders that advise the school administration on the needs and/or wants of students. 

The efficacy of this can be hit or miss, as the administration can oftentimes be hesitant or unwilling to take the advice of students even if they are interested in helping student needs. This is not inherently because they do not want to help or cooperate, but is usually because of other outstanding factors such as the district directives and school finances.

Student Government is viewed as an equal and balanced structure among the delegates that are appointed, but that is not the case. There are large differences in say and representation by the circumstance of grade. Because of the misperception that underclassmen are always less mature, that can be used to deny students certain rights and privileges. In its current state, the student government excludes lower classmen in favor of the Seniors and the Juniors. The Seniors take primacy with their planning of Prom and other events exclusively for Seniors. In my opinion, that is not exactly fair representation. Other students also agree with this. One student stated that “More efforts as a group working for the school as a whole, not just for one class” could improve student government.”

The ability for Student Government to make a difference in the school and for it to actually assist in its operations is another issue. Currently, student government is very limited in not only its reach but its impact on Allderdice itself. It only has one really impactful responsibility: the planning of dances. Although important as a right of passage for the upperclassmen, this should not be the primary drain on resources for student government, as half of the student body does not get to participate in, for example, Winter Formal and Prom. 

When asked what most students thought student government could do to improve some said Student Government could be more representative of students, whereas others said they wanted to see student government actually have an impact on the school. One respondent said the following, “I think that they can try to focus on a couple things to make real change rather than creating a fake face for show while not really doing anything. They can actually listen to students, and do their job without focusing more on the way it looks rather than what they actually do.” 

I find this to be the exact sentiment that will drive student government to become a body that actually does have a strong impact.

I must add that I do understand the limits of students within the boundaries of a school but I also believe that the school is just as much our school as it is anyone else’s. We as students deserve just as loud a voice as teachers and faculty. This has been made more and more evident over the past two years in which students suffered massive damage to their mental health, and to their ability to function within the extraordinary circumstances forced upon them by a shortage of buses, an overload of work,  a changed schedule, and a global pandemic. These have culminated in the mass demoralization of students who feel as if they are powerless leading to opinions such as this, “I think student government members need to realize the lack of possible impact they have.”

I find this to be pessimistic but also a symbol of how hard students have been pushed into thinking they have no voice when in reality, the strongest thing students have is their voice.

Student government is riddled with flaws, but that does not make a change or larger impact impossible. It can still be fixed though, by being persistent in our desire to improve the quality of life inside the school and persisting in our efforts to be heard by the school. For example, in an interview with Vice Principal Dobies, he said something that really resonates, “​​Students need to approach administration more, if they approached them more frequently they’d get a better feel. Like when they closed down the bathrooms, coming to us is a good idea.”

As a suggestion for anyone looking to reform Student Government, in my opinion, a good start would be shifting its purpose away from the organization of events only for certain groups (like Prom) and focusing on more school-wide issues and dilemmas in which students have a particular interest in, such as closed bathrooms or student mental health.

The idea that students are not capable of knowing what they want or that they do not fully understand what is going on around them is slowly becoming more and more outdated and untrue. With the rise of new technology, students have gained a wider understanding of the things happening around them, making them much more capable of deciding what they need to be successful.