CC Chairs envision a stronger student government

CC+Chairs+envision+a+stronger+student+government

Adam Frommer and Yana Gitelman

Almost exactly two years ago, Jude Herwitz ‘20 wrote an op-ed discussing problems with student government at the school. Herwitz brought up the disorganization and lack of ambition within the Community Council (CC), as well as the lack of trust from the administration. Over the past few years, we have noticed many of these problems and have shared his frustrations. That is why we decided to run for the Co-Chair positions — to change the CC and bring real accountability to the student body

Another problem that Herwitz did not mention but has been brought up at CC meetings this year is a lack of transparency and communication from the CC to the student body. In writing this op-ed, we hope to open up communication with students so that you are looped into the discussions and initiatives that the CC is working on and so that you can provide feedback to us. As the first-ever Co-Chairs, we hope to lay groundwork that will ensure more open communication in the future. 

The first problem Herwitz identified was that “the CC lacks a standardized process for coming up with, discussing, and accomplishing initiatives.” We agree — in previous years, there has never been a structured way to bring up problems we want to solve or solutions to those problems unless a brave individual student was willing to interject during a meeting and pitch an idea. 

A big part of our job as CC Co-Chairs will be to create structure and accountability with our initiatives. We want to have purposeful brainstorming sessions, the first of which we had as a full group this Monday. Historically, when ideas have been proposed, we have quickly moved on without discussing any specific next steps. An offshoot of organizational problems on the CC is that there is no process where returning members can teach new members how to accomplish initiatives efficiently. In the past, most of the new members have learned independently by trial and error. This year, we are taking a more hands-on approach. We have created an online organizational system through the interface Slack, which will allow us to be involved in regular initiative meetings and be there as point people to check-in with progress. We’ll also ensure that committees include students from multiple grades so that returning students can mentor new members in the process of implementing initiatives. 

In addition to a lack of organization in the CC, Herwitz wrote that “the administration has deliberately removed power from student government in past years.” We agree, and many other students in the CC have expressed similar concerns. As a result, students feel disempowered from using the platform for real structural change. While we will continue to put energy into school spirit and games like Project X, we also see the opportunity for the CC to meet with the administration to discuss students’ very real frustrations. We would like for administrators who are not already faculty advisors to join in on CC meetings to listen to our thoughts as elected representatives of the student body. As CC members, we are naturally in a middle ground between students and faculty advisors and administrators. 

We want to voice concerns on behalf of the student body, because we know that there are structural and cultural concerns to address. Last year, we started to address HM’s culture of making light of mental health issues. We know there is also a culture of students being competitive about grades. We know that testing schedules don’t work for everyone, despite the administration’s changing policies around them. As a group of students from all grades with diverse interests and from different social circles, we want the administration to use us as a representative focus group as they make decisions related to students. 

Historically, the two Student Body Presidents and the Co-Chair of the CC have sat on the Committee on Instruction (COI), a committee composed of mostly faculty in charge of approving new courses in the Upper Division. On the committee this year, we as students have a unique perspective to bring to the table. We appreciate that the COI embraces student input, and we think this structure should extend to other administrative work as well. We plan to open up a continuous meaningful dialogue with the faculty and administration that can be modeled after the COI. We also plan to get more CC members, not just us Co-Chairs, involved. Students have a unique perspective to bring up in any discussion — from disciplinary policies to scheduling to sustainability. As a result of increased communication with the administration, our initiative ideas are also more likely to be taken seriously. 

In order to represent you, we need to know your concerns, needs, and wants. In the past, CC meetings have technically been open to the student body, but we have never made that clear. Look out for emails with opportunities to get involved. And of course, feel free to email us at yana_gitelman@horacmann.org and adam_frommer@horacemann.org with any ideas you have.