In an assembly on Jan. 27, Student Council Advisor Mrs. Anne Franzen announced new changes to the Student Council election process. The adjustments included banning giveaways, a requirement that Dean of Students Mr. Kevin Jacobsen must approve campaign promotions, and the enfranchisement of the faculty in Student Council elections.

Effective immediately, in each election for the respective available positions, students will contribute 75% of the vote, while the faculty contribute 25%. Diminishing the voice of students in the community, especially their voice in their own governance, cannot go unchecked.

The Student Council is meant to represent the student body, hence its name. If faculty members have a say in its composition, the organization will lose its purity. Why are students not being entrusted to represent themselves? Why does the faculty feel it needs to close off one of the few outlets students have to be themselves? Moreover, why does the faculty feel it should exercise greater control over student affairs than it already does? Is Student Council a threat to faculty rule on campus? 

Imagine if all federal representatives and employees could vote in Florida state elections, even without Florida residence. There would be an outrage, as why should people who are not part of the state have a say in the state? That is similar to what is happening with the introduction with this faculty vote. The faculty should focus on keeping their own house in order before tackling ours.

In countering this point, Mrs. Franzen said: “The value of our community is that we are a community, and that includes the faculty. Oftentimes, students will act one way in front of teachers and one way in front of students in order to sway people’s decisions, and it helps us balance that.”

It is true that students act differently with teachers compared to with their friends. This is why teachers should not have a voice. Students are their authentic selves with other students. The Student Council needs to be the home where students can be themselves without worrying about what the neighbors think. 

Teachers may think that they know a student for whom he or she is, yet they really do not. The difference between how students act with teachers is to always be more respectful. With their friends and other students, this student may not be so kind. Then, the faculty may vote this student for the election, while students vote against him or her because they truly know this student. We know each other best.

While The Pharcyde agrees with the importance of community, it fails to understand why the entirety of the community should have a say in Student Council elections. If the entire Upper School community is involved, shouldn’t security and parents have a say in the elections, too? Shouldn’t 8th graders, who are soon to be part of the Upper School community and deserve to be represented as such, have a vote?

Benjamin has roughly a 7:1 student to faculty ratio when only counting students who are eligible to vote in Student Council elections (non-seniors). Given this, it’s simply not fair that the faculty’s portion of the vote is as if the ratio were 3:1. Why should around 50 faculty members have such a large say over 361 students? Even if Student Council faculty leaders and the administration feels that there needs to be a faculty vote, it needs to be closer to 10-15% to mirror the true ratio of student voters to faculty members.

If the faculty is the heart of our community, why can’t we students have a say in how they function? The Academic Council has nine faculty members on it, making various decisions that relate to academics. With this logic, there should be two students on this Council in order to put our say into the faculty votes. Should students, and teachers, have seats on the administrative team? Should The Pharcyde reprint our requests for a student seat on the Board?

Moreover, most teachers don’t even teach every student. Is it fair to have a teacher vote in an election between a student whom they have taught and a student whom they have never spoken to? This could be the case with most of the races. Student Council votes should not be popularity contests.

In fact, Mrs. Franzen first integrated a faculty vote in the Middle School during her time there, and found it to be a success for its ability to counter the notion that elections had been popularity contests.

“The problem with the popularity contests in general is that those don’t tend to be people who get stuff done for the student body,” said Mrs. Franzen, who noted that the Middle School’s Student Council became more productive following the integration of this faculty vote.

Ignoring that such actions assume the worst in student behavior at the Upper School, the other changes announced appear to more directly and objectively combat any perceptions of popularity. Banning candidates from giving away anything (ex. candy, ice cream) should dissuade the few voters who would succumb to such bribery from actually being preyed upon. 

Including teachers in Student Council elections could also have some unforeseen consequences in student and teacher relationships. Previously, if a student did not win an election, they could only look at their peers for the reason why. Now, students could blame faculty members and even their own teachers. Imagine walking into a class, and you think that your teacher did not vote for you because you have a B- in their class. That could be heartbreaking and break a student’s confidence in the course. Students should not have to endure that.

On the flip side, teachers could treat a student differently based on an election’s result. If a student wins that the teacher did not vote for, the teacher may have a bias against this student, as the faculty member may feel that the student did not deserve their position. Even if they don’t treat them differently, they could think of them differently, and even that is harmful. Teachers having internal thoughts and bias regarding a student, good or bad, is not healthy and usually does not result in a good outcome. 

Involving faculty members in student affairs, particularly with disproportionate representation, has cons that outweighs its pros. As a representation of the student body, Student Council needs to live up to its name and remain the voice of the students.