SGA should work at fostering stronger relationship with the student body
Whenever someone at Blair says "student government," it usually comes with an acknowledgment of the irony of calling it a "government." The administration knows, the teachers know and the students know that in the end, the adults are the ones in control.
For many Blazers, Blair's Student Government Association (SGA) has been reduced to a league of party planners. But although SGA may not have the capabilities of a true government, it's the closest we've got to a student voice in school policy, and it needs to assume its responsibilities as such. In addition to planning school events, the SGA needs to remember make an effort to represent the students, and uphold a level of transparency so that the student body and the SGA can exchange information and feedback.
Despite the common opinion, the SGA actually does have a say in school policy. SGA President Adam Biru meets with Principal Williams every week, and the SGA is surprisingly close with administrators and teachers. Biru says that any time a student approaches SGA with a problem, he brings it up with Williams in the next meeting. According to Biru, "Our power stems with our relationship with the administration."
The trouble is, not many people bring issues to the SGA. Right now, the best way for students to contact the SGA is to go to their classroom and talk to an officer, which can be intimidating. The SGA needs to put in effort to show the student body that it is willing to take suggestions from the students and find solutions together.
One possible solution is to revamp the SGA's online presence. Blair SGA's website, blairsga.org, has not been updated since November. The website does have a section that allows students to contact the SGA, but few people know it is there because the website isn't worth visiting. If the SGA were to put more effort into improving and promoting its website, it would foster a stronger relationship with the student body and students would be less hesitant to give input.
When students do contact the SGA, they often come with expectations that are too high. According to junior vice president Caryne Moses, the SGA is often blamed for policy changes even if it was not involved, and students complain about issues the SGA can do nothing about, like the closed lunch policy. While it's important that students communicate with the SGA, they need to evaluate how reasonable a request or complaint is beforehand.
At the moment, the SGA has taken an initiative to anticipate common student complaints. Its advisor, Claudette Smith, assigned a project to encourage SGA members to study social issues at Blair.
Each SGA officer has chosen a topic that he or she considers a problem at Blair, and then conducts research on the topic by conducting surveys, polls of students and interviews with Blair staff. After researching, each member will present his or her work in front of the SGA, and then the group will decide which issues to tackle together.
With this project, the SGA has found many simple solutions to student problems. Secretary Sara Pollacco, for example, looked into why the benches on Blair Boulevard were taken away two years ago. After talking to administrators, Pollacco found that it was because administrators felt that students weren't cleaning up after lunch. She conducted a few surveys asking students if they would promise to be clean in order to get the benches back and said that all of them agreed.
According to Smith, the project is important because it will provide information to back the SGA up when it brings issues to the administration. When the SGA has concrete research, the administration will be more willing to take action on an issue.
But taking action is just half of the equation. First, the SGA needs to know what issues should focus on. And while the research project is a commendable initiative, the SGA still has work to do -- it needs to foster a stronger, more open bond with the student body.
Maggie Shi. More »