Student Government representatives struggle for power

Outside of the big 5, representatives in Athens Student Council struggle to get heard.

Sophmore Saeed Siddiqi puts together a cardboard A for America Monday’s photo booth for the fall homecoming spirit week.

Photos by Aubrey Word

Sophmore Saeed Siddiqi puts together a cardboard A for America Monday’s photo booth for the fall homecoming spirit week.

Since 1978, the Athens Drive High School Student Government has been making decisions to help plan student events. As many in the school believe, they help shape events and promote such events to the student body. But, how far do those roles actually go into creating these events? Do they match how the other students perceive their roles?

According to Chris Remaley, the current teacher advisor for the ADMHS student government, it is designed to give everyone a vote and say of their own. The main decision-makers are the Executive Board. The Executive Board’s president is a senior, the Vice President has to be a junior, and the Sergeant at arms represents the sophomores. The treasurer can be from any grade level. Note the lack of freshmen? That’s because the freshmen don’t get here until after the election, which happens the spring semester before they start high school. Therefore, freshmen are unfairly not allowed to be present during the Executive Board’s decisions while planning events for the school.

“[The Executive Board] makes decisions for the group as a whole but not without first allowing for input and contribution to these decisions.” said Remaley. 

But, here’s the real question; how does that “input” from other grade levels come in? Seniors outside of the Executive Board? Amongst the student body? Many of the other student council representatives, those not on the Executive Board, all express the same thing; they don’t feel like they’re being heard or being allowed to make choices in our student council.  Seniors, and to a lesser extent, juniors, are occasionally asked about things pertaining to their grade levels, such as seniors picking shirts to represent their graduating class, or the juniors making some decisions for the prom Athens holds in the spring. But, even in those plannings, it’s sometimes one or two details that are chosen by students, and most of the rest is left to the discretion of a teacher advisor, meaning freshmen rarely get deciding power. That means that the senior and Executive Board opinions are more highly valued because of their coveted point in high school. 

Sophomore Student Council members decorate the Senior hallway with festive decorations to make photo booths for the homecoming spirit week. (Photos by Aubrey Word)

A junior representative involved in planning prom spoke on the true role that juniors played in planning prom. She has realized a problem in the planning, regarding minorities, but hasn’t been able to change anything. Athens Drive High School’s prom falls on April 30, which falls under the time period of a Muslim holiday. Ramadan this year lasts from April 1 to May 1. During this time, especially the last 10 days, Muslim people follow strict rules about when to eat/drink as well as about dancing and listening to music. If the prom is on the day it is set to be, many of the school’s seniors will have to miss it because of their devotion to their religion. Junior Jasmine Arikatz along with others in the junior class of student representatives have been pushing to get the date pushed back so they could attend. Unfortunately, they are met with a lot of pushback from other members of the student council on how they should stick to the original plan, which goes to show how much influence individuals actually have on the student council’s choices. 

“All I’ve been hearing back are complaints on how I should just not want to change anything and stick to the original plan,” said Arikatz.

Last year, during the pandemic, planning events was hard. Many events were shot down because of guidelines and restrictions. We tried planning many events but were always canceled because of Covid-19. One thing that wasn’t canceled? Senior’s events. Many senior meetups were planned, such as the stadium drive-through, so that people could feel appreciated as they became upperclassmen. The freshmen tried to plan a similar event, keeping it as low-risk as possible through measures such as staggered times for people setting up, wearing masks even though they were outside, and only using our own decoration items instead of sharing with others.  They were going to set up some winter decorations, lights, and inflatables in the stadium, and hold a similar drive-through for many to enjoy. Despite the rigorous planning, the low risk of being outside, and social distancing implemented while they were going to set up, it was canceled. It was the same, if not less risky than the senior drive through, but because the seniors were graduating sooner, and this was “their last chance as a meetup” they were granted the event. The freshman was lobbying for an event because they had never met each other before, and so they were hoping to see the classmates they had only seen as pixels on a screen for six months. Without it, it made everyone feel isolated from their peers and made high school and learning more impersonal. 

Many of these things should be a whole group decision because the student council is elected to represent the feelings and opinions of the student body. If all of that power is left up to five people, it generally defeats the purpose of having the other 60 people there.

That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t though. They have received more choices compared to before. After last semester’s harshly-received spirit week, the student government as a whole was allowed to put input into what spirit days the school was going to do. 

Teagan Grantz, Ayushi Goyal, and Akul Khan have a bit of fun with balloons used for decoration after a hard afternoon of work. (Photos by Aubrey Word)

 The student government has room for improvement. They need to make it so that more student government representatives feel that they have a say in the plans. Currently, the underclassmen are mostly allowed to make posters promoting events that they hang around the school. If the freshmen and sophomore student councils were allowed to help plan the events better, I think that everyone would have a much better time in student government, and the school in general, will have more enthusiasm for school activities.