In response to the piece published about student government in the October issue of The Westword, we, as student council, would like to say more than a few words to shed light on some of the issues that were brought up. We find The Westword’s editorial piece inaccurate on a number of levels.
The Westword says that “other schools” have governments that “raise money, promote school spirit, encourage community service, coordinate efforts between student clubs and organizations, and help determine and evaluate school policies.” We would like to remind you that we have in fact accomplished every single one of these things to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, it seems our best and most basic accomplishments have been overlooked.
Firstly, to address concerns about raising money, let us remind students that we have raised over $13,000 for the senior class to use for prom, charity, senior events, and a Westhill gift. The phrase that we have few “leadership responsibilities” in student government is incorrect; planning prom is one of these responsibilities that the student council is chartered with, and it takes a lot of preparation and fundraising on our part. If students would like us to devote our resources to address other issues, there would be an outcry if there was no prom.
Let us say what we have done to address issues on school spirit. In the past, the senior student government has been in charge of increasing school spirit. This year, aside from planning spirit week, we have also been planning other fun events for Westhill, including a pep-rally. Unfortunately, both our current and previous attempts to start pep-rallies have not been effective since there were concerns raised about this event in the past and there were some miscommunications between student government and the administration.
When it comes to promoting and doing community service, the lack of recognition we receive as a student council is unjustified. Aside from the Anti-Defamation League conference to ease racial tensions in school that we were part of, we have donated large portions of our earnings to charities each year, including the CJ Sweeney Foundation and the American Cancer Society. We have tutored at Roxbury as well, and we have brightened Westhill with our efforts to clean graffiti on school property. We have also coordinated other activities including efforts to create a stronger relationship between Westhill and Brighton Gardens that is still being approved by the administration.
Even when it comes to coordinating efforts between student clubs and organizations, we have tried to coordinate a carnival in the past in which all school clubs and organizations could collaborate and keep the resulting profits, but unfortunately the idea never came to fruition. Even when former Assistant Principal Mr. Rodriguez tried to jumpstart a “school-wide government” our freshman year, we were the only class to truly take the initiative to participate in Westhill projects. We could not continue this type of student government without the help of the other teachers and student government officers as well.
And finally, many would like to know why student council has not been able to determine and evaluate school policies. In addition to providing students with a Facebook group, we informed students about the class email created in 2007 and have yet to receive a single email from a student with concerns about school policy, new ideas, etc. Moreover, all students have been encouraged to join student council and address other issues at hand. We have received severely limited participation from the rest of the student body and have hence received little input about changes that would like to be made.
Although The Westword did not touch upon these accomplishments and initiatives we have undertaken, there is still an underlying cause that is central to these matters. The administration seems to have fallen short of a number of things, including setting restrictions on which students can and cannot run for office.
Even when it comes to collaborating with its students on student council who want to change the Westhill community and responding to ideas, there seems to be no clear system between student council, the class advisers, and the administration that can be employed to facilitate and provide efficient communication and implementation of our ideas and reforms. Additionally, being in charge of the task of planning prom has limited our abilities to focus on improving the Westhill community. We would like the administration to be mindful of the duties student government wishes to fulfill and would like them to have a hand in organizing prom so that student government would not have such as burden to bear.
It comes across to us also that the administration has had difficulty making communal decisions, especially seen through the election flaws from this year in which unfortunate circumstances were created for students running for office. With such leadership and planning, no progress can be made without organization and efficiency and continued exigent interaction.
In conclusion, it is apparent that The Westword has not holistically addressed our many accomplishments. As a group with strong leadership and initiative, we have not received the recognition for our many successful achievements from the school staff or students and are limited in our abilities as a governing body. We would like to have increased freedom in taking action and hope that the administration can address some of these pertinent issues that we face.
For us to achieve other goals of our peers, students other than class officers also have to be proactive and take the initiative make the changes they want to see. Unfortunately, aside from a lack of participation on a school-wide level from students, it seems that nothing can truly be accomplished unless there is more interaction on the administration’s part to connect with student council also. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “When the people become involved in their government, government becomes more accountable, and our society is stronger, more compassionate, and better prepared for the challenges of the future.”
—Your Student Council
Government of 2011