Importance of an elected student leader

Emma Stadelmann, Opinion Writer

Schuster. Cataldo. Miller. Coe. Since freshmen year, my peers and I have recognized and respected an important figure in the high school power dynamic: the student body president. This position is unique and completely necessary for the success of a school.

Recently I have heard rumors about big changes coming to Xavier, which have been confirmed in part by various faculty and staff members. These include a house system, and more importantly, the abolishment of student senate and the student body president. While I believe the house system may offer benefits, dissolving student senate will lead only to harm.

Think about it. Anyone who has been in the senate for a year can run for student body president. It does not matter if you’re in football or First Tech Challenge (robotics). Your grades can be straight A’s or completely average. Beyond disciplinary issues, nothing can disqualify you. So long as you are willing to take on the responsibility of the position, you are considered.

However, what is more unique is how the president is chosen. In a true democratic system, the students of Xavier elect the student they believe to be most qualified to take on the job. One may argue that it’s all a popularity contest and therefore it’s a bad system. Well, they would be partially correct. It is definitely a popularity contest. But that isn’t a bad thing. The student body president is meant to reflect what is popular with the students- and that isn’t necessarily their activities, academics or friend groups. I have seen great contrast between each president in my four years at Xavier. From involvement in mock trial to band to football to show choir, the presidents have been unique. The one consistency between them, though, has been an unmatched spirit of leadership and genuine care for Xavier. Believe it or not, that spirit is popular with the students of Xavier.

The proposed plan for student leadership within the house system is very different from a traditional class president. Instead of one leader, there will be several. Instead of a student democracy, staff members will pick representatives. I have objections on both counts. 

First, though it is important to have a group of students all working towards the common goal of bettering Xavier, and while it is reasonable to establish a hierarchy within that group, a clear, singular leader is necessary. When planning important events and deciding what is best for the students, an executive decision-maker who takes initiative accounts for much of the crucial progress and details. They cannot do everything by themselves, of course, but a single person needs to take charge. A group of leaders can work in certain situations, but when the hierarchy begins to squabble, an executive must decide what is best. 

Next, the idea of faculty and staff members picking representatives is perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole plan. How can a leader be a representative for the students if they are chosen by the faculty and staff? They get to pick their favorites– often. Look at the senior mentors, the Kairos leaders, the students of the month, the ambassadors, those who are asked to sit on panels and give speeches– it is very easy to distinguish who is well liked by the faculty and administration. Sometimes those favorites will align perfectly with who the students follow and respect. Sometimes they will not. Believe it or not, students often see a different side of their peers than the staff do. Either way, the students deserve a leader that is their favorite, not a staff favorite. 

When it comes down to it, a student body president and student senate are a staple of the high school experience. I respectfully request that the position of student body president, as well as the establishment of student senate, be preserved for future generations of Saints.