Committee to Discuss Effectiveness of Student Council

The newly created Student Council Review Committee, consisting of five students and five faculty members, met last Saturday to evaluate the role and effectiveness of Student Council. The committee also discussed possibilities of reforming the current presidential election process and the structure of Student Council, according to Hemang Kaul ’13, School President. “[We] plan to discuss the role of the [Student Government] Constitution, the definition of the role of the President, communication between student leaders and administrative leaders and the interaction between the Cluster government system and the Student Council government system,” said Junius Williams ’14, Upper Class Representative. Members of the committee will provide various perspectives on the broader discussion of student leadership at Andover, according to Tipton and Becky Sykes, Associate Head of School. Sykes is an ex-officio member of the committee. “Right now [Student Council] is this very abstract thing that has been here for a really long time, but it doesn’t have any specific duties or goals, so we’re trying to define exactly what it is for,” said MJ Engel ’13, Executive Secretary of Student Council. The committee consists of Kaul, Engel, Williams, Tessa Peterson ’15, former Junior Class Representative, Samuel Green ’13, Editor-in-Chief of The Phillipian, Jennifer Elliott, Dean of Abbot Cluster, Frank Tipton, Dean of West Quad North Cluster, Fernando Alonso, Advisor to Student Council, and Paul Murphy, Dean of Students. The committee also plans to discuss the lack of female Student Council members and School Presidents in the history of the school. Of the 15 students who currently serve on Student Council, only four are female. “I think that the discussion of gender balance in senior leadership roles is an important one to have…every year, someone asks me about the number of girls running for President..but, once we get to the top three, it’s like, ‘Are there any?’” Sykes said. The last female Student Body President was Allegra Asplundh-Smith ’04, and there have only been four female presidents in the past 40 years of co-education at Andover, according to Sykes. “I want our girls to step up and play a more significant and prominent role in Student Council; I want to understand why there is not a more equitable gender balance among student leaders in our community,” Elliot wrote in an e-mail to The Phillipian. “Because I participated in Student Council last year but am no longer a part of it this year, I am able to see many perspectives that must be addressed…I am also able to speak about the gender imbalance from first-hand experience,” said Peterson, who was one of the four female members of Student Council during the 2011-2012 school year. Discussion of the role of Student Council began this fall when the Executive Board of Student Council met with Sykes. “Last year, when we were starting to transition to a new Executive Board, we were exploring the question of what the point of Student Council was and what the role of each individual member of Student Council was,” said Kaul. “This conversation has needed to take place for a really long time, and we’ve finally got the organization to make it happen…we hope to have tangible results,” said Engel. It has been eight years since a committee to review Student Council has convened. In 2004, under the most recent female President, a committee reviewed the Student Government Constitution that is currently in place. “I’m a firm believer in always reviewing everything that we do… The faculty is having a conversation about governance. Why shouldn’t the students?” said Tipton.