The Real Role of Student Government

By: Marilyn Molstrom-Warner

The relationship between South Eugene High School’s student government and student body is one that can best be described as unique. Although the two groups exist within the same building, the role student government plays at South remains a mystery to many students. Multiple questions regarding the organization arise as a result.What does student government do? Why is it important? What are the motives of those involved? And why does student government not play a bigger role at South?

South’s student government just gained its newest members as freshman elections drew to a close. Over 20 applications were submitted for the seven positions. Every year, freshmen applicants must go through the demanding election process, one that is more challenging for them since they have no “frame of reference,” according to Heather Stein. The entirety of the experience tends to be unfamiliar and thus comes with natural obstacles. During elections, freshman candidates are required to fill out an extensive application, create campaign posters, and give speeches before a group of South staff and students. This year, a new element was added to the election process in collaboration with South Eugene’s journalism class. Throughout early October, freshman candidates made campaign videos that were shown to freshman classes the day prior to elections. This year’s elections took place on Oct. 12, and results of the election were broadcasted to the entire school on the announcements on Oct. 1Your freshman representatives are President Luzia Rode, Vice President Dover Sikes, and Senators Camilla Ferry, Hannah Stein, Nikki Rejai, Helena Wehr, and Patrick Walker.

Though it is an excitement and a relief for candidates who are voted successfully into student government, much of the student body is often left in the dark as to what these elected positions entail.

“Student government essentially interacts with the administration and mediates between the staff and the student body,” junior Leo Saenger, ASB site council representative, said.

Each class is represented by one president, one vice president, and five senators. Representatives of all positions are expected to give up their lunch every Tuesday and Thursday in order to attend mandatory meetings. Through meticulous planning, freshman officers are responsible for organizing Winter Formal and Spring Fest, in addition to helping plan various community service projects. As for the duties of the rest of the classes, sophomore officers organize Homecoming, junior officers organize Prom, and senior officers organize Fall Fest and graduation breakfast. As a whole, the student government works together to organize community service events, such as blood drives, food drives, and Bags of Love. ASB student government, which represents all students, also oversees clubs and helps to provide funding.

Student government officials across the board invest hours of hard work into our school, yet their efforts are met with very little recognition, so it can be assumed that there are other benefits to be derived from student government membership. Those outside of student government get the impression that the only reason students join is for the boost it can provide on their college applications. There is, in fact, a strong correlation between involvement in student government and increased chances of earning scholarships. The National Association of Student Council offers numerous scholarships to high school seniors who participate in student government. Colleges individually may also offer leadership-based scholarships, which could be attainable through involvement with student government. Is this perception of student government accurate, and do class officers only use student government as a means to look better to colleges?

Assistant Principal Heather Stein offers a different view as to why students join, pointing out that there are many benefits in joining student government, such as “the learning that occurs [when] going through the process if applying, how to fill out an application, [answering] many questions about yourself, [and] following through.” Essentially, there are numerous useful skills to be gained or honed through the experience of joining South’s government. Students practice working in a professional environment, participating in a team, engaging in public speaking, and utilizing leadership skills, in addition to learning how to shoulder big responsibilities. The development of these abilities can be valuable and are applicable in everyday life. In addition, many South students truly want to affect change at South and improve the student body’s experience.

Regardless of the motives that individual members of student government may harbor, many constituents of the South community agree that student government as a whole could play a larger role at South. While student government’s work is commendable and not to be discredited, both teachers and students alike hope that the group will make itself more well known to the student body. Heather Stein said this can be achieved through better communication and representation. She advised that posters and brief mentioning on the morning announcements are not the most effective ways to communicate with student body or to represent the student government. Posters may be spared only a fleeting glance while morning announcements can be and are typically drowned out by classroom chatter.  What is needed, Stein said, is more direct interaction between the student government and student body. Saenger also said that student government hopes to achieve this initiative by increasing student engagement in South events. She suggests that once such initiatives are taken, the role of South’s student government will become more apparent and appreciated by the student body.

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