There is no doubt that student government is supposed to play an important role in a school. A strong student government is associated with contagious school spirit and an unwavering protection of students’ interests and rights. Yet our student government has let its potential fall by the wayside in favor of uninspired party planning of the same core events and mundane bureaucratic functions.
ASB does these two tasks relatively well. Activity requests are handled efficiently and the new focus on breaking out of the recent school spirit slump has not gone unnoticed. ASB is trying to reinvigorate the student body through spirit weeks and pep rallies–which we understand are harder to plan because of construction–while the big ticket events, although sometimes lacking in creativity, run smoothly. Unfortunately, what the student body expects from ASB, and what ASB expects from itself, falls short of what those expectations should be.
Students are the ones who are most affected by the policy decisions made by the administration and board, so it is only natural that our representatives pay as much attention to that as they do to party planning. On a school level, ASB should be a link between administration and the students, addressing prevalent student issues such as the overbearing parking lot rules, inequality between classes of the same subject and the status of construction.
We understand that ASB’s requests and events get shut down by administration, but we still think that our student government is too easy in taking no for an answer. ASB’s proposals would have more weight if they were backed up by 300 rather than 37 students. If members of ASB are passionate about their ideas, presenting to, persuading and petitioning the student body could create leverage that is hard to ignore by administration. After all, ASB is the ultimate arbiter of what is in the student’s best interest; not presenting the students’ collective interests and opinions to administration is simply not performing their most basic duty.
And while ASB should focus on its home school, it can play an active role in the fate of the district as a whole. The student board member reports, the most direct line to district policymakers, should go beyond just updating the board on school spirit activities — the Sept. 26 student member report entailed a description of the planning of Homecoming, while the Oct. 23 report included a spotlight on ASB itself — but also be used to express and promote student interests and issues. While the student board member may bring up these concerns over the course of the meeting or in special closed settings, it is a waste of the student body’s bully pulpit to enumerate events that, in the grand scheme of things, matter less than the structural problems facing the district and students alike. The student board member should also seek to inform students about discussions and decisions made by the board, whether it’s through a frequent newsletter, a segment of the Norman Update or an open meeting with students during lunch.
The ASB mission statement states that each member must “engage the Beverly Hills High School community” and “know its needs.” ASB has unfortunately become an echo chamber, contenting itself in obtaining convenient, rather than complete, input. When ASB members center their opinions to the experiences of the members themselves and their circle of friends, an organization that is fundamentally meant to be inclusive becomes blind to the thoughts and needs of those it purports to serve.
It is imperative that ASB, in which 37 members represent nearly 1,500 students, takes the proper steps to incorporate all creeds, opinions and perspectives. The ASB class is an “Open Forum,” where any student can walk in, pitch an idea, air grievances or speak directly to their representatives. That’s great for the students who can get out of their Period 5 class, but it has the effect of excluding the overwhelming majority of those who can’t.
Though ASB does send out a poll from time to time, we would like to see more active outreach. That is why we recommend that ASB to have at least two meetings a month during lunch or after school, so that every student has a chance to participate with his/her student government. In the interest of transparency and accountability, ASB should also make its meeting agendas and minutes easily accessible to the public, so that every student can be informed and involved. ASB should expect students to want to weigh in on more than just apparel designs and event themes. In this day and age, people can be gauged and engaged at the push of a button, so why not strive for in-depth, frequent and open-ended polling?
But really, should we be surprised that ASB as a whole takes little interest in district policy and student voices when students can run, and win, elections on pure fluff and empty promises? One ASB hopeful promised to institute folders in every classroom where students could pitch their own ideas and thoughts. Another promised “Free Chipotle Day.” Three months in, we still have yet to see either of these. Another member campaigned on allowing students the “opportunity to have fun and accomplish things” without delineating any strategy or proposals. All three candidates were running for, and received, top, prestigious positions. These campaign proposals were hot-air balloons that quickly deflated after votes were tallied.
Candidates should seek to win office on platform rather than popularity or cheap persuasion. If they truly run out of a desire to tangibly improve their school, it should be easy to see clear efforts being made to put their money where their mouth is. If it isn’t, those candidates should re-evaluate their commitment to and eligibility for student government. While deeming who is and isn’t fit to represent their peers is a difficult decision, we hope that both the election review board and the voters will take into account the substance of the candidate’s goals and proposals, and demand that they be achievable and achieved. There is a common theme within ASB: those who have been elected to represent the student body have picked up the baton from previous years, staying in an ASB bubble and perpetuating the systematic status quo of mediocrity.
Yet some of the blame falls on us. As students, it’s our collective duty to care about our community and contribute to the process of making decisions that affect our school, namely us. We on the Editorial Board recognize that Highlights has not done its part in spotlighting the ASB elections and their consequences. Our role is to inform the student body of the issues that are pertinent to them, just as ASB is meant to address them. However, neither organization can create engagement out of thin air. When two of arguably the most important positions of student government–the head row president and the student board member–run uncontested, we are again reminded of a sad fact: not enough students care.
From our perspective, there has been a continued lowering of the community’s standards for ASB. We know that nobody is blameless; it would be irresponsible for students to lay everything on their elected officials. The only undeniable fact is that the standards we set for what ASB handles, how representative student input is gathered, how student’s interests are promoted and how elections are run and won must be raised significantly. The only question to ask now is: who will step up to raise them?
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