As this year’s candidates for Student Council Co-Presidents took their places at the podiums, the audience’s spirited cheers resonated throughout the chapel. The enthusiasm showered upon the co-presidential pairs in examples such as the above reflects the level of interest surrounding the election, especially during the final stretch. In these last few weeks, the candidates’ platforms were highly publicized by both the administration and student organizations on campus. But outside of election season, student leadership seems to be oddly silent.
While I am well versed in student campaigns, if asked to name a concrete achievement by student leaders this year, I would draw a blank. After election season, there was simply no further information about the initiatives of student government. I am not criticizing the efficacy of student leaders but rather the availability of information on their work. I hope that after the excitement of the elections is over, the work of student leaders continues to be publicised. If the student body is not informed on the accomplishments of student leaders, their power becomes empty and meaningless — nothing more than campaign slogans with a lifespan of one election season.
In order to make student leadership more effective on campus, there should be greater transparency in decisions or progress made by student leaders. In our country’s government, large decisions and the processes of important bills are continuously updated and broadcasted to the general public. Some of the greatest political scandals in history occurred because of secrecy and lack of honest communication between the government and the public. While the consequences of insufficient communication within the Andover context are not likely to trigger a Watergate or a Bay of Pigs, it still harms members of the student government. Even if positive progress is made, it is as if nothing has happened at all. Because of the lack of news about their accomplishments, student leadership seems to be about little more than landing the position itself. This may be completely false, but in order to disprove the notion that student leadership is just a position, it is vital that students are provided the news of what they’ve accomplished or what projects they are currently undertaking.
In addition, students are unable to contribute meaningful suggestions to the ideas of our leaders without appropriate communication. Personally, I would only feel comfortable approaching our Co-Presidents about an issue if I were well informed on the logistics and track record of student government. Such an opportunity would provide greater insight to students on the direction in which Andover is heading and actual input from those outside of student leadership could be noted. The student body is willing to contribute ideas, but ideas are ineffective without transparency and communication. If student leaders are truly meant to represent the voices of the student body, they must convey their progress and goals in a timely, accessible manner.
The missing link in this situation is not in the capability of our student leaders, but rather in the information surrounding the issues and decisions discussed. The better the student body is informed, the better kids able to voice their own opinions or ideas to student leaders. The student government system would be much more inclusive and democratic, thus ringing much closer to the purpose of student leadership: to represent the entire student body.
Anna Lang is a New Lower from Andover, Mass.