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Leadership Should Prioritize Local Issues

It is two weeks until voting, and Berkeley High School’s (BHS) campaign season is in full swing. Over 70 candidates are running for positions like Associated Student Body (ASB) president and Vice President, Chief of Service, and Chief of Publicity. After voting is held, the winners will take over student government for the 2019-20 school year.

Student government is thought of by many students as a meaningless body. In my experience on ASB Leadership this past year as part of the School Site Council, this assumption is largely correct. While we meet weekly, my branch of leadership has not accomplished anything as a group for the entire year. Other branches have done more, but not much. Most of their accomplishments have been planning events for students, such as the dance held several weeks ago or the upcoming BHS talent show.

These events are fun for the few students that attend them, but as nice as they are, there are bigger issues facing both BHS and the city as a whole. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four female students have been sexually abused by 18, and according to DataUSA, 19.9 percent of Berkeley residents live in poverty. When people in our community are suffering, the first focus of student government should be reducing that suffering instead of planning fun events.

Of course, student government cannot single-handedly solve these problems. It has little control over curriculum, clubs, student services, and most other school-wide policy. But leadership is not powerless. It is made up of a large group of students who can be mobilized for a cause. For example, ASB leadership already organizes a holiday meal to feed the homeless, which feeds hundreds of people annually. Leadership is not able to solve problems in one stroke, but it has the organizational power to do something.

This is not to say that talent shows and building school spirit are bad. But prioritizing them over helping real people is absurd. Instead of trying to organize another failed homecoming, leadership could be organizing a food drive, or educating students about sexual harassment, or fundraising for charity, or cleaning up trash on the waterfront.

Student government shouldn’t just be the event planning club or a way to fluff your college applications. As an organization, it could create real change in our community and tangibly improve people’s lives. So when you vote, remember the power student government has, and how candidates will use that power.