Student government election season is always obvious, as brightly colored posters are plastered up all throughout the campus. Candidates come up with snappy slogans and promise to do everything they can to make the campus a better place. However, much like the real political sphere, not much happens — the government fades into silence and relative obscurity, and students’ lives at large are not impacted at all until the next election season. In theory, student government on college campuses should be something incredible. It should be a way for students to be able to voice their opinions and concerns to the administration. It should be a place where our future leaders get to practice listening to the people and acting on their promises to make the university a better place. Too often though, what the student body gets is a popularity contest and no significant change.
There is a fundamental purpose to student government existing, but it seems that time and time again, student government fails to actually accomplish anything. It is a great place to refine leadership and to voice concerns, but a host of issues prevent any benefit from coming to pass. It must be noted first and foremost that this is not solely on the shoulders of student government as an institution. All universities have administrations that are acting in the interests of the university at large, or even a system at large if the university belongs to one, like the Ivy League or UC. This means that even though it should have an impact, student governments and other student-run organizations do not really have much power in terms of getting admin to act. This is unfortunate, as the student body in every avenue should be able to have a platform to speak out for change in the college they spend so much money to attend. Student government especially should be a direct line between students and admin so changes can be made, but the fact that admin will likely act in the interests of business, not much can be done.
However, there are still issues at a student level that prevent student governments from being the most functional systems they could be. Though extensive experience can be exclusionary, especially in a political environment that is not as nearly volatile as the one we face in our countries at large, a certain list of requirements should apply for candidates to be eligible to run.
Qualifications for leadership positions cannot be understated; having rigid requirements in place for what is expected of student government candidates and leaders will prevent any potential wrongdoing or laziness. The titles within student government should be more than just a popularity contest or a way for select groups of students to gain power and influence. These positions should be campaigned for by qualified students who genuinely care and want to make a difference. Having a strong student government could allow for the stagnation between admin and students to actually occur; to have a group of passionate students who genuinely voice concerns, student government may no longer be seen as a joke to admin.
Overall, student government is a great idea in theory that has not to date worked so well in practice. Though it’s easy to be cynical and say that a corrupt or stagnant student government prepares us for the disappointment of our governments in the real world, the student body of universities across America deserve to have candidates that represent the interests of the whole, not just the individual hoping for a line on their resume. Student bodies deserve to speak out when student governments are not working the way they should and make reforms so that even more change can occur, bettering the college experience for everyone.