Power to the people: the CC’s voice should matter

Jude Herwitz

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I know you’ve thought it before. “The Community Council (CC) doesn’t do anything.”  And, while that claim is false (as per the recent Thanksgiving video, Letters to our Heroes, Career Lecture Series), the CC could, and should, accomplish more. When I first ran for CC two years ago, I wanted to make school more enjoyable for the student body, be it through fun activities, like Project X or simple reforms in various areas like the cafeteria. Though I believe I’ve had an impact, I wish that I could be part of more meaningful efforts. I believe there are a few reasons that we have not been as much of a force for positive change as we should be.

First, the CC lacks a standardized process for coming up with, discussing, and accomplishing initiatives. If a representative has an idea, he/she is supposed to tell the CC Chair, who adds it to the agenda for the next meeting where the CC as a whole discusses it. While this process  might sound reasonable, it has its failings. Take, for example, a meeting held on November 15th. Out of 11 items on the agenda, only two were discussed.

I propose an end to our current procedural ambiguity. The CC needs to come up with an explicit order of operations for the following through of ideas from birth to fruition. That new process should begin with representatives investigating the feasibility of their proposals and continue with representatives submitting their ideas to the Chair, along with a brief description and a list of next steps to take. With these adjustments in place, the conversations during meetings could focus on the specifics and merits of a proposal rather than a roadmap for how to proceed.

Second, the administration has deliberately removed power from student government in past years. The school abolished the Governing Council (GC), the CC’s predecessor, partly because of its responsibility for club funding, which I agree is not the role of student government.

However, students, along with faculty members, should have a legitimate say in school affairs. Students are affected by big decisions just as much as those making them. A greater voice for students would be a unifying force for the community, rather than a divisive one. A stronger student voice grants a sense of agency to the student body, in turn fostering school spirit. It provides an opportunity for students interested in government to pursue their passions and support ideas they approve of. It helps teach CC members how to oppose government policy they do not like.

What’s more, an empowered CC would be vastly more interesting for representatives, helping  solve the problem of students not attending meetings. This year, the Chair has done an excellent job of boosting attendance. While obviously it is no one’s fault but the representatives’ if they choose to skip a meeting, offering more responsibility would further incentivize attendance.

While it is fantastic that we launch so many initiatives meant to be just for stress-relieving fun, an improved CC could do even more. In 1968, the student government abolished the dress code. The idea of today’s CC accomplishing anything of that magnitude is unimaginable. I say that not because of our members, all of whom are incredibly motivated, but because we simply don’t have the opportunity. Representatives do not put forward sweeping changes because doing so has no point; nothing in the two years of my membership gives me any indication that such a suggestion would be seriously considered. The largest change I remember talking about, trying to install a soda fountain in the cafeteria last year, did not amount to anything.

When they consider broad changes that affect the student body, such as the adoption of a semester system, the CC could also fill an advisory role for the administration. Grades elect CC representatives to represent them. It’s time the school let us do that.