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Student Leadership Stripped of Responsibility and Power

Every Monday morning, the class presidents and vice presidents meet with their team  of students to  do team bonding exercises, such as sharing compliments with each other and building towers out of spaghetti. Only in the last fifteen minutes of the meeting do the students get team planning time. On average, each team is expected to plan one event every quarter. This is, to a large extent, the only responsibility of the class presidents and vice presidents. The lack of power placed in the hands of the representatives we elect, and who act as a voice for the entire student body, is disturbing. What should be an influential student government is instead transformed into a glorified party planning committee. This shows a lack of trust not only in the elected presidents of the classes, but in the students who elected them.

In order to understand why the leadership program at Berkeley High School (BHS) needs reform, it’s important to understand how the system currently works. There are three branches of school government. The first is the executive team, made up of the Associated Student Body (ASB) president and vice president,  and the people they select to advise them. The second is the School Senate, which is composed of the representatives from four decision making groups. The third is the class leadership teams, which are comprised of the class presidents and their advisors, called class deputies. Both the class leadership and the executive team are charged with planning events, like prom or the holiday meal. The School Senate is in charge of the decisions that have the greatest impact on BHS students, and these decisions are made through four groups: the Berkeley School Board, the Student Site Council (SSC), the Berkeley School Excellence Program (BSEP), and the Development Program.

The most well known and publicized election is the election for ASB and class presidents; however, these positions don’t have a major impact on the decision making side of leadership. This must change. Since class president elections also gain the most amount of candidates, one can assume that people have a larger range of candidates to choose from, and thus are able to vote for the candidates who represent the values that the general student body supports.

Along with this, it is also fair to say that these are the most sought after positions, resulting in the most qualified representatives. It is important for the student government to have more power over policies that directly affect BHS students.

Luckily, there is already a format for students to influence the decisions made on campus. The SSC may make recommendations based on evidence from complaints of parents and students, and on the evidence of studies published. This is a helpful format that’s already in place and could be given to the presidents of each grade. That way instead of just planning events, the people that students chose as their voice could have a more meaningful and long term  impact on BHS.