By Ariella Gentin
As students are being informed in their various history classes, student government is in the process of undergoing some major changes. A charter for a new format for Student Government, written by Zachary Nelkin (’13), was reviewed, modified, and passed by the previous student government, along with a number of teachers and administrators. The new rules for Student Government were publicized to the student body during the last week of January, and are going into effect this election season.
This charter calls for, amongst other things, the implementation of a Student Council. The Student Council will be a body of ten students from varying grades. Elections for Student Council will function following the system of proportional representation, similar to the voting process in Israel. During elections, students will run as a group of ten students advocating a specific platform. This group must include a party leader, at least two students from every grade, and equal male and female representation.
Students will vote for a party, indicating which member of the party they want to win. Seats on the Student Council will be distributed according to the percentage of votes a group receives, with party leaders receiving the first seat that goes to that party. The party leader whose group wins a majority of the votes will become the head of the Student Council. If no slate wins a majority, then the party leader whose group wins the most votes becomes the head of the Student Council, as long as he is approved by the majority of the Student Council. The remaining seats are allocated to party members in the order that students voted for them individually.
With this new body comes the suspension of the three existing student government positions: President, Vice President, and Secretary.
The role of Grade Representatives is being largely kept, although their responsibilities are more clearly defined as “maintaining the grade’s cohesiveness, organizing stress relieving events, and making the small improvements that make a big difference.” They will also now be referred to as Class Presidents. They will continue to run in pairs, one boy and one girl.
In an attempt to institute the fairest voting system, a voting system called instant runoff voting will be used to vote for the Class Presidents. Nelkin explains that “[according to the new system,] students will rank the candidates. If no candidate wins a majority, then the candidate with the least votes is eliminated.” A round of primaries, which existed in previous years and eliminated contestants before they had a chance to speak or present their views, is also being disbanded. All eligible candidates will compete in the final round of elections.
The faculty component of Student Government will also be undergoing a change. Ms. Krieger, for the first time, will be working with Rabbi Bloom, and next year she will be taking over completely.
Rabbi Bloom, while describing the previous student government, notes that “if the majority of the school votes for one kid, then the rest of the school won’t be represented.” He adds that “[Student Government members] do a lot, but they maybe could or should do more. It’s good for school and students to have a voice.” Ms. Krieger explains that many people think this new system will run more efficiently, and will be a better way to “[have] more people involved.”
Nelkin explains his motivation for revamping Student Government. “The way that the elections [have been] run [in previous years] produce[d] an extremely unrepresentative student government….there are a significant number of students who voted for a losing candidate and are therefore unrepresented,” he shared.
Though Student Government is going to be taken more seriously this year, some students remain with doubts of its importance. When a group of students were asked what they think of student government, one student responded “its a joke,” and several other students nodded in agreement.
Indeed, despite these progressive changes, the voice of the students might be somewhat distorted if they don’t vote for whom they really think will be the best candidates. When asked who she was planning on voting for for Class President, Allison Herstic (‘16) responded saying, “Probably my close friends. I don’t really care [about Class President] – it’s kinda is a popularity contest but that doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t think we have such big issues to deal with so I don’t really care who wins.” Emuna Korenblit (‘16) agrees, “I’m voting for my friends.”