Thursday, February 23, 2012

Upper School Student Leadership Proposal, Draft III for Student Feedback

OES Upper School Student Leadership

Beginning 2012-13

Purpose: To evolve the Student Leadership structure in the Upper School, defining what it means to be a good leader and to address persistent inequities in opportunities, particularly for young women, and involving students in decisions that shape the social environment, policies, and culture of the school.

Points at issue:
  • Contradiction: three female presidents elected in 25 years while the Upper School enrollment is intentionally gender balanced.
  • Young women tend to be more involved in non-elected leadership while young men tend to be in elected leadership positions.
  • Absence of accurate and functional bylaws.
  • While many students are leaders in the school, we do not define the qualities and characteristics of good leadership.

  • Student leadership is an act of serving the community.
  • Young men and women are equally represented in student leadership.
  • Elected leaders accurately represent the student body based on active, frequent, and varied engagement with their constituents.
  • Student leaders learn the skills to be successful and demonstrate leadership within the community in order to run for elected office.
  • Students have a consistent voice in the development and implementation of school policies and practices.

  • Create equally distributed leadership roles on Student Council for young men and women, where more young women are in elected leadership positions and more young men are in non-elected leadership positions.
  • Leverage the leadership of students in non-elected positions to prepare students for elected office.
  • Create a new set of bylaws for student leadership, both Class Boards and Student Council.
  • Define student leadership and intentionally build a structure to develop student leaders.
  • Foster equitable relationships between young women and young men where social and political power is equitably distributed.


Student Council Co-Chair Job Description:
  • Qualifications:
    • Demonstrated leadership in a defined group at OES or in the larger community (see examples below) that includes a service aspect.
    • Demonstrated school spirit and active citizenship at OES or the larger community.
    • Evidence of leadership training at OES or in the larger community
    • Support of Advisor and Parent
    • Good academic standing
    • Commitment to ongoing growth and learning as a leader
  • Responsibilities:
    • Represent the interests of all Upper School students.
    • Work collaboratively with Student Council Faculty Advisors and Upper School Leadership Team.
    • Set the agenda for and lead the Student Council meetings.
    • Facilitate US Gathering.
    • Contribute to conversations on school culture and policy.
    • Set the tone for US culture and conduct.
    • Organize and implement inclusive social events for students.
    • Support other student organizations on campus.
    • Prepare and deliver speeches at events including the Belltower Ceremony, Open House, Back to School Night, etc.
    • Carry the school banner at Graduation.

Student Council Class and Dorm Representative Job Description:
  • Qualifications:
    • Demonstrated leadership in a defined group at OES or in the larger community (Note: “demonstrated leadership” is understood in the context of a student’s opportunities as an underclass student.  See examples below)
    • Demonstrated school spirit
    • Support of Advisor and Parent
    • Good academic standing
    • Commit to ongoing growth and learning as a leader
  • Responsibilities:
    • Represent constituency in Student Council meetings and disseminate applicable information back to class or dorm.
    • Contribute to conversations on school culture and policy.
    • Set the tone for US culture and conduct.
    • Organize and implement inclusive social events for students.
    • Support other student organizations on campus.

Class Representative Job Description: (Need input of Head Class Advisors...)
  • Qualifications:
  • Responsibilities:

Student Council and Class Board Bylaws
  • Election structure:
    • Student Council Co-Chairs
      • Co-Chairs are elected by the entire Upper School.
      • Only rising seniors are eligible for election
      • One co-chair must be a girl and one must be a boy.
    • Student Council Representatives, Grades 9-11
      • Representatives are elected by their grade level.
      • Each grade elects one girl and one boy.
    • Student Council Representative, Dorms
      • Representatives are elected by the dorm students.
      • The dorms must elects one girl and one boy.
    • Voting and Timing
      • In all cases above, students must receive a simple majority of 50% + 1 vote to win.  
        • In the case that multiple students run for election and no one student wins a simple majority, the top two students participate in a run-off election.
      • Elections for Student Council Co-Chairs include:
        • Opportunity for each candidate to give a speech.
        • Opportunity for debate between candidates - debate moderated by Blophish newspaper staff
        • All Upper School election.
        • Current seniors are not eligible to participate
        • Eighth grade involved but not eligible to vote.  (Include only students coming to the Upper School?)
      • Elections for Student Council Class Representatives and Class Representatives are held in class meetings.
      • Elections for Student Council Dorm Representatives are held in dorm meeting.
      • All elections, with the exception of the 9th grade, are held in May of the year before the students will serve.  9th grade elections are held in September of the year they will serve.
  • Requirements of declaring candidacy
    • Student Council Co-Chairs, Class and Dorm Representatives:
      • A statement of leadership posted to the Student Council website.
      • Evidence of demonstrated leadership.
      • Submitted statement of support and commitment signed by student, parent, and advisor.
    • Class Representatives:

Adult Leadership:
  • The adult leadership should reflect the same gender equity goal: a man and a woman (at least).

Examples of Areas of Leadership

OESLarger Community
9thMiddle School...
Captain on Sport Teams
Club Sport Team Captain
Girl or Boy Scouts
Leader in Youth Groups
Camp Counselor
10th-12thAthletic teams
Class board
Midwinter Madness
Green Team
Mock Trial
Prefects/Dorm Ambassador
Stage Managing
Girl or Boy Scouts
Not-for-Profit Organizations
Club Sport Team Captain
Leader in Youth Groups
Camp Counselor

Resources and Research Consulted:


  1. Nice information provide about leadership proposal...
    Leadership Training

  2. 1) The new system would only cover up the underlying issue. Just there has to be a female representative does not mean that the voter bias changes.

    2) By placing leadership requirements on candidates the new system will only breed a leadership elite. By any classes senior year, the same hand full of people will lead everything. In previous years I have heard complaints that only male lacrosse players win. The new system would reinforce this. Furthermore, the quality of leadership would likely diminish. Considering that students already have a challenging academic work load, expecting students to assume multiple leadership roles is unrealistic and it would force many students out of the opportunity of running for student council.

    3) I find it unreasonable that underclassmen get to vote for the senior reps while the seniors do not get to vote for underclassmen reps. There is no arguing that the more time you spend in the OES Upper School, the better an understanding is cultivated. Freshman and Eighth Graders do not have that sort of experience. In this sense, it becomes advantages to have a predominately senior student council. In turn, underclassmen see what makes a senior class more or less successful.

    4) In the current system there is no limitation placed upon gender or any other quality shared by a demographic. If you would give females and males separate races, there should also be a category for every other distinguishable category.

    5) Within the new system, if there are 2 qualified candidates of either gender, one of them would not be able to get voted in to office. The problem becomes magnified when the candidates in the opposite gender is completely unqualified, but still wins.

  3. Here are a few thoughts:

    1. More seniors than underclassmen need to be on Student Council - not because I'm senior biased - but because the only way StuCo members know how to do things like dances and Mystery Fridays is because the members have seen them happen for 3 years. In this model, I think there would have to be more seniors (the maximum in this model is 4 seniors - right now we have 7). We could achieve that by finding a balance between class board and StuCo where members are on both. The idea of having two grade reps is good, the only issue we would have to work with is how many people is too many people on StuCo.

    2. In seeing that there have been 25 girl presidents in the last twenty five years, we should also consider how many have run each year. Personally, I believe the fact that girls have not been president is a reflection of the voting population rather than a reflection of the school not encouraging girls to run. For example, two girls and two guys ran for president last year, which suggests that there is equal opportunity for girls and guys to run. To this note, I would suggest creating discussion within the voter base to encourage consideration of the impact of having a girl or guy president. Then, if there is a change in who is elected, we would've solved the issue by starting with the voters rather than forcing it.

    3. In the case that there are two co-chairs, I think somewhere down the line there will be two chairs that don't like each other. Unfortunately, they'll be the two main leaders in StuCo, and student government's agenda as a whole would be affected by their clash. If we are to balance the two most important positions of leadership by gender, I think it should two separate positions rather then the same. For example, one could be president and the other vice-president. Within StuCo, the freshman rep has as much say as the president as the dorm rep, so what matters most is the overall gender balance of positions (how many positions are girls and how many are guys) rather than who is in what position. Right now there are 5 girls and 5 guys on StuCo.
    However, it doesn't necessarily need to be those two positions. Unfortunately, this would still not address the need for more seniors on StuCo. In addition, when there are no elected positions it may be hard to find someone within StuCo that would want to be treasurer or secretary.

    4. Mostly upperclassmen are in leadership positions (committee chairs in MUN, leaders of Green Team, sports captains, etc.), and by the time students reach those positions it will be too late for them to run for StuCo positions. To gain leadership experience, I would suggest either holding a leadership workshop for interested candidates or recognize that students who run for those position are showing leadership just by running.

  4. I have to say, though the proposal is going in the right direction for the elections, I do not believe it is perfect yet. As said above, I believe that the "requirements" for StuCo will breed an elite group of people who will run every time, and new Freshman who did not go to OES for Middle School will have a hard time getting on track for leadership positions. Also, I agree with the fact that Seniors should get more reps than any other grade, seeing as they have been here longer, and the grade themselves should choose the other reps.

    This proposal could turn into something brilliant, but now it seems like an unfinished prototype.

  5. This system seems to exclude new students. I am a freshman and I believe that I should have had a vote on the president/co-chairs. I am not saying that I don't like the current president, I just would have liked to have a say in the decision. Is this why 8th graders are excluded as well? The co-chair people should be voted on once the new students are at OES, like the first week of school. This way they will at least get to listen to the people's speech and get to now the people.

    Another topic of interest is the freshman representatives. They are usually "lifers" and were not new students (at least this year, i don't think any new students even came close to winning the election). For the freshman representatives, having one new student and one returning student would be a good option.

    1. On your second point, I agree that also finding a balance between new and returning students is important, especially in freshman year where there are a lot of new faces in the class. However, my class is slightly opposite of this. When we were sophomores, our Stuco rep was a student who had been at OES only half of the previous year. Our current Junior rep on Stuco came to OES as a sophomore. The junior class has also voted many non-lifers into our class board (all three years so far) as well as our current DC rep.

  6. While I appreciate the effort and direction the proposal is going in, I don't think this is the way to rectify the unequal numbers of female vs male presidents. Different grades have different people with strong leadership skills - there will always be grades with more female leaders than male leaders, or vice versa. People should be voted into StuCo based on merit, and gender shouldn't really play a role in who is voted into office. I also think that seniors should have more representation; seniors know the school better, and provide good role models for under-class men and the positions available for seniors give under-class men leadership opportunities to look forward to. The lack of any positions (treasurer, secretary, etc.) also concerns me because I feel like without a job description/a specific duty for each person on StuCo, it would be difficult to make sure that anything got done. Having a regular secretary/treasurer/etc. has its advantages; they get better at their role as the year goes on, and know exactly what their responsibilities are. I think that this proposal has some potential; I definitely think that the lack of female presidents is concerning, but don't think that having people voted into office based on gender is the right approach. I think there are other ways to encourage equal representation in StuCo. Ultimately, the decision of StuCo members is the student body's, not the administration, and should remain that way. Gender shouldn't play such a huge role in deciding Class Board/StuCo members.

  7. To be honest, I don't think that this new system is a good idea. I feel that it is necessary to have more gender equality at OES but I do not feel that this is the right way of going about it. I believe this is only scratching the surface of a much bigger issue, which is the equality of all people, not just females. I know from my experience at a failed run for class board last year that it is usually the "popular" kids who win elected positions, not necessarily the ones that are the most qualified. From my past experience, the entire system seems like a popularity contest rather than an election.

    I feel that the entire system is in need of a MAJOR overhaul, due to the issues described above. In addition, currently the process does not take into consideration the fact that some people may have more experience at OES than others. I feel that this is another important aspect to take into account in elections. For example, I believe that someone who is in his or her first year of OES should not be allowed to run for an elected position; he or she simply does not have enough experience of what OES is like (this includes teachers). In addition, even though I an not a senior, or even a junior, I believe that more seniors than others should be on elected positions, as said in a couple of the above posts. This is mainly due to the fact that they have had more experience, and I feel that experience is the most important thing.

    In short, the elections currently feel like a popularity contest, and this idea would do nothing to help that, and the elections are in need of a complete reconstruction.

    1. I guess that this idea is at the very heart of how I feel. Changing people's minds by engaging them in constructive conversation (or argument, if need be) produces much more satisfying results than restricting their freedoms in order to cultivate proactive thought. Very reminiscent of a certain debate in Humanities, huh? :)

    2. (REPOST: originally posted February 25, 2012 [early evening] 1/2)

      I'm sorry this has been your experience with student elections. I definitely understand, based on the members of the current sophomore Class Board, what you mean when you say "popularity contest."

      However, this actually brings me back to an interesting point of discussion from my English class. It seems to me that the administrators with whom I have spoken don't hold "popular" candidates in very high regard, and don't believe that "popularity" is a significant element of successful leadership. Charisma and humor (these are mainly what constitute "popularity" in the Upper School)do not alone qualify an individual for office, but they are highly valuable leadership tools, especially in regard to the way that they allow the official to relate to others, and should be considered during every election of a public officer.

      That said, I trust in the strength of democracy, and the intellect of my peers. They should be allowed to choose their own representation, with as few limits as possible. This does not nmean "complete reconstruction" of the electoral system, or restrictive "bylaws," but rather through public discourse and persuasion.

    3. (REPOST: originally posted February 25, 2012 [early evening] 2/2)
      I guess that this idea is at the very heart of how I feel. Changing people's minds by engaging them in constructive conversation (or argument, if need be) produces much more satisfying results than restricting their freedoms in order to cultivate proactive thought. Very reminiscent of a certain debate in Humanities, huh? :)

    4. The sophomore class board has done a good job, and I don't think it was a popularity contest (in my unbiased opinion). We are probably a good example of why there's the forced gender balance (there is one girl and four boys), but we were fairly elected into it. If the sophomores wanted to elect more girls, then why don't they just vote for more girls? Isn't the point of a democracy so people can elect their leaders? In this proposal, it is still technically a democracy, but if the administration can pick and choose the candidates, then is it really the students' choice? I think the new requirements in running for office are as alarming as the new gender quotas put out in this proposal.

      Another aspect of the election system to look at is the speeches. Whoever has more charisma usually has a great speech, and a better chance of being voted in. The issue is, that usually the speech is no indication whatsoever of what a person will actually do in the elected position. For example, in the elections last May the candidates for Treasurer promised completely different food choices in the student store. Has the selection or quality of the store changed? Not at all.
      Students need to vote for those they think will follow up on promises, not just those who make the best promises.

  8. I liked Jordan's proposal about the co-chairs running as a set pair. I would think that if two separate co-chairs were elected, there is a big chance that the two co-chairs would get into lots of disagreements. If a girl and guy paired up together (knowing that they are compatible with working with each other) problem solving in the StuCo would be so much faster

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. I'm glad to see that we are reevaluating our ideas of StuCo and of what we think it should be--that needs to be done often because the student body is always changing. But, like some other students, I also think it is very important that StuCo remains an accurate representation of the student body (it is the student council, after all), and I think that there are some aspects of this proposal that do not reflect the wishes of the student body, or at least the wishes of many people who I have talked to.
    I agree that electing girls to be student body president is an issue, but I don't think that this is the way to solve it. I think that by enforcing that one girl and one guy is elected per grade could result in people who either don't care that much or who simply would not be fit for the position being elected, and I know that's not what we want.
    I know that some people might disagree with me on this, but I think that sometimes women and men shouldn't have exactly the same positions. Women and men are different, we know that, and maybe their roles in StuCo and leadership should reflect that. I'm not saying only guys should be elected or only girls should be leaders outside of StuCo, but I think it's important that we acknowledge that different genders have different strengths and interests.
    I also don't think that evaluating a student's grades as a prerequisite for being able to run is very un-OESian and kind of discriminatory. I understand that grades may be an indicator of commitment to the school etc, but it is also true that sometimes they just don't reflect who the person is.
    I also agree with many other students in that seniors should have more representatives and higher positions in StuCo, simply because they have more experience and can be good role models.
    I don't think the 8th grade should be at all involved in the election process, although I do understand that it's important to integrate the divisions. StuCo and the privilege of electing representatives is something that highschoolers earn and look forward to, it's something that is given to highschoolers because we are more mature than middle schoolers. It's the same thing as with the separate wireless networks: different divisions are at different levels of maturity.
    I think that having more than one student body president (StuCo co-chairs) is not efficient or beneficial. Having more than one president would decrease the effectiveness of the position.
    Lastly, I don't think we have a definition of leadership or a leader because there are so many different kinds. Everyone leads in his or her own way, and a set definition of leadership would exclude people.

  11. I agree with Jordan, as well as anon.

    I would really like to see more statistical figures, because data can easily be misinterpreted. Like the juniors, the student leadership in my grade is overwhelmingly female. In addition, the proposal assumes that girls only vote for girls and boys only vote for boys; that isn't true.
    Having two presidents is also pointless, as anon mentioned.

    As to the complaints about senior domination (and the opposite about the lack of adequate representation for seniors), perhaps it would be best to give the seniors their own student council rep. To balance it out, maybe the student council positions besides president could be opened up to juniors as well. I think, and probably most people would agree, that the president should always be a senior.

    This proposal, unfortunately, makes stuco less of a student body organization and more of a "prefect" system. I'm sure these changes aren't intended that way, and I am sure as well that the Administration has the best interests of the student body in mind. However, this proposal is not the way to achieve gender equality.

  12. (REPOST: originally posted February 25, 2012 3:14 AM 1/3)
    Yesterday, I had the opportunity to discuss this proposal with my friends in the junior class (mostly girls), as well as help facilitate a conversation about it during my English class.

    Listed below are several questions, comments, and ideas coming from me personally, as well as from the conversations I had with other juniors:

    1) I agree with most of the "Issues at Point" and the "Principles," however, I don't fully understand the leadership prerequisites. The way I see it, a candidate should represent him/herself in the way that he/she sees fit. The student body can consider the absence or presence of "demonstrated leadership" from one candidate to another, in light of all of the other aspects of the race and the election, with the weight that it sees fit.

    To me, it seems silly to put this kind of rule into place-- I not only find it unnecessary, but I believe that it reveals three dangerous assumptions made by the proposers about the specific types and qualities of leadership that should be encouraged and discouraged within the School:

    a) that directive-type leadership (from being a team captain, or head of an activity or lunch meeting group) is superior to styles that are often overlooked in comparison, such as leaders that focus on the relationships within the group to build consensus, leaders that come up with creative approaches to solve problems, leaders that isolate and complete small tasks methodically to achieve larger goals, etc.

    b) that all student-led organizations and associations prepare their leaders equally, or even in comparable ways. Having participated in a variety of different clubs and activities in the Upper School, I know first-hand that this is not the case.

    c) On a related note, the proposal claims that "Young women tend to be more involved in non-elected leadership while young men tend to be in elected leadership positions."

    First of all, what are the numbers supporting this claim? Based on my personal experience in about half of these activities, I would reject the fact that girls are more involved in supposed leadership than boys.

    Secondly, what this claim suggests, in context, is that the aforementioned "young women" necessarily would decide, based on their leadership of these activities, to run for elected offices currently held by their male counterparts, if not for some implicit, sexist bias in the voting group or otherwise. This does not hold much water for me. The proposal admits that the leadership positions for these activities are non-elected; therefore, that the leaders have either been self-appointed, or granted their rank through seniority status.
    The role, accountability, intentions, and motives of an a candidate running for an elected office are extremely different from those of a leader who has been self-appointed or tracked into a leadership position. In this way, it is unfair to extrapolate the possible increase in "young women" elected to office from the purported figures of their involvement in non-elected positions.

    In any case, the majority of the groups mentioned in the list of examples of non-elected leadership recognized by the School are themed: Spectrum (gay, lesbian, straight, transgendered, bisexual, etc, etc.), Mock Trial (law), Green Team (being green?? I question the legitimacy of this group.. anyway…) This means that they cater to an interest in a particular subject matter, providing a shaky basis for another assumption that the leaders of these groups are likely to be interested in student government because they are interested in other activities.

    It's also important to consider that for many students (especially underclassmen, particularly freshmen), running for Class Board or StuCo may very well be a "first" leadership experience.

  13. (REPOST: originally posted February 25, 2012 3:14 AM 2/3)

    I strongly believe that for the purposes of Upper School elections, a visible passion to represent the interests of one's peers trumps the advantages of a past leadership experience.

    2) The Class of 2013 presents an interesting scenario which questions some of the grounds of the proposal.

    In the past three years, boys and girls have run for StuCo representative. Girls have been elected every time. As for Class Board only one boy (me) has served in the past three years.

    Clearly, my class does not conform to the bias described in the proposal. Clearly, my class has consistently chosen to elect the candidates it believes to be most qualified, be they boys or girls. Why then, would a class like mine be forced to sacrifice one of it's elected officials on Class Board to satisfy a quota based on sex? Why would a class like mine be forced to attach a less-qualified, male candidate to the true winner of the election (a female)?

  14. (REPOST: originally posted February 25, 2012 3:14 AM 3/3)

    3) I have heard from all of the girls with whom I have spoken that they feel as though separate elections for girls and boys is far more degrading than a perceived bias in the voting population. They argue that this sort of solution would reaffirm (to boys AND girls) the very notion it intends to defeat: simply, that girls "could never win an election on their own." Obviously, this is not a desirable message, but it is clear that the consequences from holding separate elections in the way outlined in the current proposal will create a difficult, unpredictable resentment. Further, it should be noted that actions enforced on a surface-level to address, and attempt to correct the root of a complex social issue such as this are inefficient and misguided at best. A change in the culture of the School, which is the real goal of this proposal, is not achieved by creating new rules. It simply is not.

    i) An idea I have, should this policy be instituted, is that instead of holding separate elections for boys and girls, each candidacy is announced as a boy/girl pair. This would circumvent several problems, and, I feel, reduce the likely harmful impact of the quotas based on sex:

    ii) It would allow each candidate to choose the person of the opposite sex with whom he/she would prefer to run. This would give the voters (and the candidates themselves!) more confidence in the functionality of the elected government.

    iii) It would prevent a situation where the boy/girl is much less qualified than their girl/boy counterpart.

    iv) It would remove the focus from the fact that the sex based quotas exist in the first place, allowing each pair to be viewed as a blended team- not, one boy and one girl splitting the position in half.

    *Let me reiterate. I do not think this is an appropriate solution, but, if it is eventually decided on, I would at least appreciate the implementation of this idea, which I feel will mitigate the damage to the community.

    4) I have a question and a follow-up comment about the role of seniors on StuCo:

    a) Why is it that only the senior representatives are elected by the whole school? This doesn't make sense one bit. Unless the co-chairs have greater power in StuCo than other representatives, they should be held to the same voting standards as the other representatives. Conversely, if the other representatives have equal power in StuCo, they should be held to the same level of public scrutiny as the co-chair candidates.

    i) If it is decided that StuCo should reserve more power for co-chairs than other representatives, I propose a model where the co-chairs each received two votes, and every other member receives 1. This would give the senior representatives about half of the voting power of the other representative groups, appropriately larger than the other representatives, but maintain the balance and control of the decisions supported by the larger group.

    Also, I feel like Patrick's comment (soon to be reposted...) addresses many things I had failed to realize or articulate in earlier discussions, and I am curious about the answers to the questions he posed, especially about the supporting figures that surround the 3:25 statistic.

    I would like to make it clear that the points I have made do not reflect an "overreaction to change of any sort," as the two administrators with whom I spoke yesterday might write off as "the way that all teenagers act." These are my sincere, sincerely objective opinions.

  15. I see many positive and negative aspects of this proposed leadership plan. However, one of the issues I would like to address is not as much about elected leadership but the leadership in many clubs and activities.

    I think that the overall issue, both with this proposal and with clubs/activities, is that the actual qualities of a leader are not always recognized, and a leader is elected either because they are popular, have seniority, or, as this proposal suggests, are of a certain gender. In many clubs, the leader is the person who has seniority or perhaps originally founded the club, and continues to be the leader until he or she graduates. However, many of these leaders end up being less than stellar, and the clubs are not as effective as they might be if new leaders were elected each year. Students of course are greatly concerned about their college applications, and this desire to have a stronger resume unfortunately has an obvious influence on their decision to lead. Certainly there is no way to measure why a person wants to be a leader, but I would just say that I think that elections (within the clubs) for new leaders should be held every year.

    On a related note, while I do agree with Jordan (in his comment above) that there certainly are males in non-elected leadership positions, I think that the proposal has a point here. I have participated in a number of small activities, such as meeting with the World Affairs Council and also attending Corbett's meeting on service, and at both of these meetings the students participating were nearly all female. Also, there are many service projects and opportunities in which the number of female participants strongly outweighs the male. Of course, there are boys who participate in service, but I have had at least five service and leadership experiences that were completely open to both genders, and yet girls made up most of the group. Obviously there is no way to force boys to participate, but I think that this issue is almost more pressing than that of elected office, because it shows girls self-selecting to be leaders while boys are not, whereas both guys and girls have self-selected to run for elected office.

    And that brings me to the issue that most people above have addressed. As a girl, I seriously value female leadership and think it is imperative that girls be in leadership positions. However, while the president in past years has been male, I don't think that there is a lack of female leadership at OES. In the Freshman class, the StuCo rep is a girl. The Sophomore DC rep is a girl. The Junior StuCo rep is a girl, as are the secretaries and dorm rep (and this is not to mention any girls on class boards and other girls on the DC). All of this is not to say that we shouldn't have a girl president, simply that there is gender balance in a lot of ways that this proposal seems to ignore.
    But I do actually really like Jordan's idea of having a boy-girl team run, because the cohesiveness of the leaders is key, and separating male and female elections would simply exacerbate the gender gap.

  16. My original comment, reposted without my last name:

    I really have to take exception to the proposed forced gender roles in the student leadership.

    While I understand the gender issues in stuco right now, I don't understand why student council positions would have specific relevance to gender. The 3-out-of-25 statistic certainly shows that something is wrong, but the votes were carried out by popular choice and should be respected. Gender bias or not, the purpose of having student council elections is to let the *students* choose, not the administrators.

    In addition, the introduction of gender roles could easily lead to the selection of an unqualified candidate, especially if there is a gender imbalance in the people who are running for election. Obviously, if some OES students have a gender bias, it needs to be addressed, but in a different way and NOT by forcing student council candidates to be defined based off of gender. Someone should be chosen based off of whether or not people think they're qualified, and even if the people are erroneous in their beliefs, they still should have the right to choose.

    The statistics shown fail to answer many things:

    a) The percentage of people occupying *all* student government positions
    b) The historical trend.
    c) The number of candidates from each gender, now and historically.

    There are many ways in which data can be misrepresented, and I fear the administrative team may have fallen victim to that. Their assertions imply that girls only vote for girls and boys only vote for boys; I know from my personal experience that that is not true.

    Anon, I agree with you on most of your arguments. In addition, would it be possible to give the seniors their own representative, and make many student council positions available for junior as well as senior candidates?

    The president should be a senior, of course, and there should only be one of them. Jordan's idea of picking gender-opposite running mates may be an acceptable compromise, but not the ideal situation. It would best to have one president.

    Lastly, attempting to manipulate the demographics of student positions is *not* the responsibility of the administration. If the administration truly intends that "students have a consistent voice in the development and implementation of school policies and practices", then it should put the new system to a vote.

    As it is, it wouldn't pass. It is well-intended, to be sure, but too deeply flawed in its content. These guidelines make the student council less a student body organization and lean it more towards a "prefect" type of system.

    I agree with the "runoff system", and that election bylaws should be established, but the gender plan leaves a lot to be desired. This is not the correct way to deal with gender bias: this policy provides a remedy worse than the supposed disease.


  17. While I agree that the 3 out of 25 statistic is troubling, I feel that it would be more troubling if a better qualified candidate of one gender were denied the opportunity to be elected simply because their competitor was of the other gender. As a girl, if I were elected to student council under these requirements, I know I would worry from then on that I was not elected for my own abilities, but rather because I am a girl and Stuco didn't have enough girls to fulfill the requirement. I would much rather lose fairly to a more qualified male student than bean him because of my gender and wonder if he could have done a better job.
    As already said in other comments, any administration involvement in the student elections would completely undermine the idea of a student government. If the students can no longer vote for the PERSON (not the BOY or the GIRL) they see as most qualified for the position, then the administration might as well just choose the students for elected positions without any input from students.
    I find it unreasonable that underclassmen would be able to vote for senior representatives. I know that if I (a Freshman) had been asked to vote for one of the seniors running for president last year, I would have had absolutely no idea whom to choose. I went to OES for Middle and Lower school, so I probably would have seen the candidates once or twice around campus, but that would have been the extent of my knowledge of them. I would have then voted completely randomly, as I believe most of the underclassmen would. This would represent a fair number of votes, and could completely change the collective choice made by the student body.
    I believe that any sort of gender role requirements for student council would, if anything, only intensify the issue. Girls who were elected would potentially see themselves as less worthy than boys, even if that were not the case. To me, this proposal suggests that female students at OES could not achieve an elected leadership position without assistance from the administration. To me, this would be much more distressing and insulting to girls than the current situation.

  18. I'd like to thank the administration for bringing this up, and just want to suggest a few considerations.

    *Don't treat the symptoms, as you will not solve the problem*
    Forcing equality does not work. This proposal just separates the two genders completely. At that point, it does not matter whether we are equal. We are still separate, with all that entails.

    *Talk to us, and let us try*
    There are a lot of smart people here, and I'm sure some would love to try to come up with a proposal. So, instead of holding lunch meetings that have no well defined goals and don't really produce much aside from arguments and sticky tables, let some students work in a group with a teacher as a supervisor, and promise to review their proposal with due diligence. Then, the students get a productive outlet, the administration gets another angle from which to approach this, and room 60 stays clean.

    *Let us know of stuff*
    I feel like this came out of left field. Furthermore, I don't think you talked to any students about this before releasing it, nor did you even let us know it was happening. That's a shame, because we like hearing about this stuff. That way, we don't get blindsided when new stuff happens.

    *Two leaders are not better then their sum*
    The role of President is very well defined, as are all the other postions. Replacing a President and Vice President with co-chairs doesn't help anyone, because all the stuff that had to be done still has to get done. Therefore, the only gender discriminations that this removes occur in name only, because the roles still have to be divided. The harder working co-chair will inevitably get more stuff to do, because he/she is more capable, and that quickly accelerates to co-chair and vice co-chair.

    In conclusion, I'd like to thank the administration for creating an opening proposal, and I invite them to allow the students to solve a student problem.


  19. I've been mulling over the proposal all day long. This is what I have to contribute to this conversation to show for it.

    It has occurred to me that there are two major procedural errors that have been committed by the proposers:

    1) This issue should not have been approached at the top levels of student government, but rather, through the development of a carefully observed, progressive dialogue in the student body, exploring the causes behind the issue at hand (pressure to conform and enforce perceived gender roles), rather than one of the effects attributed to it (girls are not often elected in presidential elections). There has not been an attempt to foster an inclusive, school-wide conversation concerning gender inequity until now. Analogized, the phrase "shoot, then ask questions" comes to mind.

    Wouldn't it have been better to develop a conversation regarding this issue before a proposal were released, rather than afterward?

    Couldn't some time have been spent, especially since the conception of this project (400+ days ago), encouraging students to think critically and talk with each other about this issue?

    Doesn't it produce better results, for all parties involved, when social change comes about in an organic fashion, as opposed to an artificial, somewhat authoritative fashion?
    Of course, the answer to these questions is a solid "yes."

    I know it is a bit late at this point, but perhaps in the future, the administration might seek out ways to engage the student body in a self-reflective, general conversation before a policy is proposed, as well as a constructively critical conversation after a policy has been written. We might find that in some cases (not necessarily this one), creating a policy is no longer necessary once students have been made aware of an issue, and begin to examine and alter their own actions as the dialogue evolves...

  20. 2) As I read through the comments on this thread, I keep running into questions about the actual facts of the situation. Based on what I can discern from reading this proposal, little research has been done "at home." It would have been helpful if the proposal not only included relevant figures and statistics (pointing again to Patrick's question), but also a closer look at the experience of students through the lens of the problem. In fact, the Duke University study referenced by the proposal did just this. Investigative focus group studies and interviews were conducted to expose the not-always-apparent factors contributing to gender inequity on campus. I believe it would make a lot of sense to do some research on campus in a similar way to the Duke study in order to fill in some of the large gaps of vital information. We need to properly understand the issue before we can create responsible policy.

    The fact that these steps have not been taken leads me to seriously question whether or not this proposal is justified in calling for the listed changes in the near future.

    It's essential that we take the time to do this the right way than to quickly push through a new policy which lacks proper foundation.

  21. Ok. I have now also read the Princeton report that the proposal references, and I am convinced that in order to lay the foundation for a serious proposal, OES must conduct much more research about the experiences of girls on campus and the perceptions and/or stereotypes that exist in male and female groups about the opportunities and limits of girls in the variety of different leadership positions on campus.

    It's funny that no one has asked this yet, because I think this is the question on everyone's minds, but,

    Where did the gender quota model originate?

    The two cited publications accessible to me from my home computer (Duke and Princeton studies), despite the differences in their scope and focus, both make overlapping conclusions and recommendations, and neither of them recommend anything near like what has been proposed in the "Bylaws."

    Instead, they both mention primarily the significance of encouragement and mentoring (faculty and peer) as having a greater impact and influence on women than on men.

    The Princeton study, in particular, notes the potential value of leadership training specifically targeted toward a female audience. To my knowledge, no such program has been developed at OES. It might be worth looking into.

  22. As a female, I find this proposal rather insulting. Clearly it was created with the intention of giving females more chances for elected office, but the reality is we already have all the chances we need. Nothing stops a female from running for any elected position and the notion that females need a boost or special concessions to get into Stuco or the class boards is demeaning. Just because not many females get elected as student body presidents does not mean they are under represented. In the three years I’ve been in the upper school I have seen a female VP, a female senior rep, many female class reps to Stuco and many female class board members and DC reps. It is not a gender issue at all. People don’t vote for candidates in the student body president elections because of their gender, they vote for them because of their personalities and their policies. Furthermore, 50% of the voting body is already female, so if girls felt as if they were not getting enough representation they have enough sway in the elections to change that. Fairness is not equal outcome; it is equal opportunity. If you force an outcome, you are not really changing the inequities in meaningful way. I agree there is a problem, but treating the symptom doesn’t solve th e problem. A solution has to come from the bottom up: define good leadership (like you proposed) and have serious discussions on the issue.
    If I were to get elected to student council I don’t want it to be because of some policy catering to my gender; that makes the victory shallow. If a female has a problem with the fact that there have not been many female student body presidents then to rectify that she should run for office. I was planning on running for vice president and quite frankly if this plan goes into effect I would seriously reconsider. Another thing that I think many people may not think about is that deserving males who want to run for office may be denied the opportunity. If two males are better suited to the position of president and vice president in a given year, it would be a shame to deny them simply because they are male. In my mind the way to fix the problem of the low number of female student body presidents is to encourage more women to run, not to force people to elect one.
    I do not think that it is a very smart idea to completely reconfigure a system that has been proven to work. (I have been on student council before and seen it in action). It also bothers me that this plan seems to be created to put females on equal footing with males but very little if any input was asked of the upper school females who the plan is trying to help. I appreciate the fact that people are asking for input now, but the fact of the matter is that the main body of the plan has already been created.
    I would also like to point out that there are many males in non-elected leadership positions, such as on the winterim committee. It is true that some of the service committees are all female, but once again nothing is stopping males from joining, and perhaps if the option to join were advertized more, more males would join.
    Furthermore I have a few questions about the policy. Would you be eliminating the positions of president and vice president and replacing them with the co-chairs or are you adding the co-chairs? Will there still be the positions of secretary and treasurer? If not I think that it would be too much burden to give to two people the heavy responsibilities previously given to four. Finally, I am unclear about the origins of the proposal. It said in the article that it was presented to the faculty and Stuco, which makes it seem as if they did not create it. I believe that a proposal with such a large impact should be created by our elected officials in conjunction with the upper school faculty. I strongly believe that there should be lunch meetings to receive student input on this matter.
    On a more positive note, I do think that establishing legitimate bylaws for student council is a good idea, as well as defining what constitutes a good leader.

    -Claire S

  23. I acknowledge that the Leadership Committee has presented a goal: they want more girls to become president because if there are always male presidents, then something in the OES community is causing there to be male presidents: gender bias. Girls do have equal opportunity to run for president, but for whatever reason have not been voted to become president.
    I think the motive behind this proposal is reasonable, but the form of action violates how I perceive my right to vote or run for the Student Council representative seats. The Leadership Committee did not list any form of student representation, such as Student Council, consulted while forming this plan even though the student body will be affected. If there are set prerequisites in the form of "demonstrated leadership" on who can run, the current definition of "demonstrated leadership" is insufficient or unneeded. If leadership skills are immeasurable qualities of a person, how can we determine whether someone is even allowed to be a StuCo candidate? The proposed ways of leadership are in no way representative of the whole definition of leadership. If there is no problem with the current Student Council being under-qualified, why do we need to put restrictions on who can run? Grades really do not represent a person’s ability to be a leader either. Being strong academically is totally different than being strong as a leader. Many commenters have suggested an open discussion among students to examine how we choose the most qualified person to vote for. I think meetings will form the definition of leadership as well as the Student Council at face value.
    I have discussed this proposal with many of my classmates, and the general consensus among us, including myself, is that when we run, we want to be elected by the student body for who we are as leaders, not just because we are girls. Getting a free spot just based on your gender, regardless to what seat you are running for, is unfair. From the suggested implementation of senior co-chairs, it feels as if the two spots lose some of their meaning if they have been manipulated. In providing a StuCo grade seat for any girl or boy who wins against the other people with the same gender, whether they are qualified or not, the rights of the voters are diminished because the two people who are elected do not truly represent the fair judgment of the voting body. What if there is only one girl running for StuCo rep and she wins by default when there are six guys having to run against each other or vice versa? That’s not fair at all. By creating co-chairs and gender-separated representatives, the opportunity for election among the genders is actually unequal within the community as a whole because the genders must compete in separate divisions.
    The statistic of 3 out of 25 female presidents is not quite representative of the whole of Student Council and the other elected positions either. This year, the boy:girl ratio is 1:1 in Student Council. As a freshman, I know that our StuCo representative is a girl, the majority of our class board is girls, and our DC rep is a girl too. As a voter, my right is to vote for anyone I want.
    To address the freshman/eighth grade voting issue, I as an OES eighth grader was definitely not fit to vote. I had no idea who the candidates were as people and would not have gotten to know them through one speech. I don’t think eighth graders/new freshman should vote before they actually know the candidates personally. I certainly would have tried to make my best decision, but it might not be well informed.

  24. As Natalie, Claire, and "anon" (directly above) have noted, the proposers ignore or overlook key statistical information, which has caused them to exaggerate and overgeneralize the issue. The fact is, girls are consistently elected for most all positions: Class Board, StuCo (class representative), and DC, as well as high profile senior positions such as Vice President and Secretary. Thus, there is not really a question of a general lack of female representation in ALL levels of leadership, as this proposal implies, but moreover, the presidential position specifically.

  25. This post is based off my opinion, or my interpretation of prior posts (which are accredited when applicable), conversations, and or information that I have come across. Since this is such a touchy subject, I apologise in advance if something I wrote is misinterpreted something that you wrote.

    I agree that the issue of gender inequity in the top job is important to address. I think that the school is correct that something should be done, but disagree in the school’s methods of how it should be done. Clearly this proposal is quite important to the student body, otherwise it would not have generated the response it has. Be the importance an “I love this” or “I do not like this at all” or some place in between, the fact of the matter is that it has created discussion. I have some comments and question to add to the vast and growing number already posted.

    I would like to see more specific dates and information instead of the more broad terms.----- i.e. When was the most recent female president elected. I feel that this structure is driven by past trends, but does not look, or even recognise, the trends that are shown in class reps, board, DC, etc in the present.------As Jordan mentioned, the current Junior class (class of 2013) has consistently defied the "Norm" by electing female StuCo reps every year. Currently, StuCo as a whole (correct me if I am misinformed) is pretty gender balanced.---- I think at least 5 of the positions are held by females. Question: If, in the past (and currently), males are/were allowed to occupy BOTH the presidential and VP spots, then why are women now being denied that same opportunity? I feel that the student body ought to have been included in the process from the beginning, especially since the whole objective is to create equality for students running for the elected positions.

  26. Part 2:

    I think that the administration and all those involved in creating, editing, and deciding the outcome of this proposal needs to be completely upfront and transparent about what is going on. Specifically who wrote it, if this is truly an idea that can completely change, or if it is a document that is already a done deal, and (among other things) what the process was before we were made aware of the proposal. If this is a done deal, then tell us (the student body and community) just that. It does not seem fair for something to be advertised as one thing when in reality, it is completely different. Honest, open communication is key when attempting to implement changes like these. Let us hope that this situation is not like some that I have had in the past! :)

    If the OES community and students have been consistently and continuously been reminded of the importance of equality for all, why does the proposal only address the inequities between men and women?

    As for the requirements, I do not completely agree with them. Yes, it is good for a leader to be qualified, however, I feel that the student body is smart enough to decide for themselves whom it is that they want to represent them. The leadership requirements have shown in the past without having been an enforced Requirement. I have noticed is that in the past couple years, at least one of the two Trivia masters have been elected into the Presidential or VP spot. I think that this is partially because the student body sees those individuals in a public leadership role almost everyday. I feel that this shows the student body is completely capable of deciding for themselves, without imposed rules, the right match for the position.

    On the point of the number of reps per grade/distribution/what positions are available, I partially agree with the proposed idea. I think that having a couple reps from each grade is good. I do not agree that the positions of President, Vice President, and/or Secretary ought to be eliminated. As Claire mentioned, the absence of a secretary would put more of a burden on the other StuCo reps. Currently, the senior class holds the spots of president, VP, a senior rep, and the misc other elected positions.

    A part of the layout I have trouble accepting is who gets to vote for which people. I am in complete agreement that the president and VP (aka co-chairs) should be voted for by the whole Upper School; however, the senior class should still be allowed to have another rep that they get to vote for by themselves. In the new layout, the senior class would be the one ones who do not get to vote their own representative, whereas the other divisions do. I also agree with one of the posts above that states "I don’t think eighth graders/new freshman should vote before they actually know the candidates personally. I certainly would have tried to make my best decision, but it might not be well informed." I am glad that the first time this specific point was brought up was by a student who was in that situation just this past year rather than somebody speculating on the point.

  27. Part 3:

    I agree with many of the comments above. Despite the good intentions of the proposal, by singling out young women, this actually increases the issue instead of moving to eliminate it. A thought that came to mind when reading the proposal was “If women are not capable of holding elected positions, then why are the dorm, freshman, and junior reps female?”

    Something that makes me uneasy is that, inspite this whole proposal is based primarily off gender inequities, the creators of the proposal have failed to remember or address this topic in a manner that equal to all, despite having over a year and a half to plan this. Specifically, what would this hypothetical system mean for a student who might be physically one gender, but identifies as the other, or doesn’t identify with one at all? Would that student be required to run as their physical gender? If visiting students, teachers, families, or guest speakers who identify with a different gender learn about this particular structure of StuCo, how would they carry that information back to the community? I understand and realise, that by mentioning this particular group, I am also singling out people. It is not my intent to separate more people, but to bring up another point.

    Lastly (for this post and the time being), although I understand that there are requirements that the admins have put in place in regards to having leadership experience, I do not understand the stance that the admins have on defining leadership, what their definition of leadership is, or why there should be separate qualification rules for dorm and day students. One of the posts above mentions how they see the proposal's leadership/leader definition to be a more direct style. OES has a program in place in which teachers are taught and made aware of All Kinds Of Minds (AKOM). Even though AKOM is geared towards learning styles, why should the same principle not be applied to leadership? If the students' minds and learning styles are so varied, it makes sense that their styles of leading are just as varied. so I personally believe that because the leadership styles, experience, and the candidates are as diverse as the student body they are running to serve, that leadership is something that shouldn't have a set definition, and a candidate should not be prevented from running if they show leadership in a different manner, but not the proposal's definition...

  28. Just to clear it up, since several people have asked me, "Jordan" in this comment feed is Jordan, the junior, not, Jordan, Head of Upper School.

  29. As a member of the leadership team, I want to thank all the commenting students for engaging in such a thoughtful dialogue with each other and for asking us (the leadership team) for clarifications. This comment is not intended to address all your questions and concerns, just to let you know that:
    1)we ARE reading this comment stream and will continue to do so.
    2)we will be discussing your questions and providing answers.
    3)this truly is a proposal and your input has real impact.

    More soon!

  30. I support this plan. Women have continued to run for the presidency, but have been consistently outvoted by their male counterparts. It is clearly evident that without this system in place women will continue to not be elected. The administration MUST force this upon us if we are too see a female president in the future.

    1. I agree in the sense that it would be nice to have a woman president, but personally do not feel that this is the method.

      What about the current Junior class? My class has a history of electing ALL female stuco reps, and electing a predominantly female class board this year and the two years before that.

    2. I have to disagree with you, An OES Student. I do not think that forcing a system upon a student body is fair. It's not like the people who have won in the past cheated- they were elected FAIRLY.

  31. topic/subject/point (some word like that): the enforcement of the proposal.

    my view/comment on the topic: If a change in (in this case) StuCo, as radically different as this, were to be forced upon the student body... I feel that that would be too much like a dictatorship. I feel that this proposal may be to much, too fast.

    Idea/a possible solution/compromise for the above concern in my post:
    Before any type of alteration to the current student council structure:

    Perhaps if it were to ease into the current system? in chunks?
    starting in the form of Education.. Every year (maybe once a month?) just have a conversation in groups of ****randomly**** mixed groups... (put ALL the student names in the same hat and draw the names). At these meetings, the stuff talked about would NOT just be the In the history of the last 25 years of OES, the student body has only elected 3 female presidents type of information, but a bit more of an in depth look at what that statistic means to everybody. not just being told that it means X, but that people get to discuss what it means to them. Also, not just looking at the student body presidents, but all of stuco, class board, and the other positions throughout the whole school. Not just of women, but of all types of groups a one could identify with [note: our head of school is female].

    I think this idea of teaching students to be more aware could be used for a couple years (ex) start all of next year and see how it impacts the elections for the class of 2014, and then the following year for the class of '15, etc etc. If a changing trend occurs, then it can be deemed that the student body is able to change when given the chance. Also, if this were to be used, I think the discussion about the StuCo layout should continue through these years.... then the student body won't feel like it's sprung on them or something....

    If this does Not work, then something about why students vote the way they do should be implemented into the conversations....

    Just an idea :)

    1. I like the meetings idea. Perhaps discussions by advisory?.

      Data isn't necessarily a bad thing, although there doesn't seem to be very much of it. It would be nice if these meetings could have a balanced approach, instead of the propaganda campaign they so often seem to be. Education is a valid tool, but only if used effectively.
      You are absolutely correct when you say that students should be able to interpret things for themselves, and being able to discuss it.

      I worry that in the upcoming elections, however, all this would be overshadowed by the effects of the *current* student leadership proposal. If a male candidate is elected, one might say it's because he's male, and if a female candidate is elected, someone might say it was because she was female. For future proposals of any source, data (and not just the data that back up someone's point- ALL of it) should be given to students and we should be allowed to discuss it for ourselves. If the administration starts off with their conclusion first, and then gives us selective data that appears to back it up, it divides rather than unifies us.

    2. Completely Agree.

    3. I really agree with this. I think it IS a kind of dictatorship to implement this right away without even getting the root of the issue that we are being accused of being sexist. Why don't we work on the students, not the system? If we really are as sexist as suggested by the administration, then people are only going to be agitated about the system and they won't feel like they are being represented. It is important for the student body to actually get along with the person who is elected.

  32. Last year, the reason I voted for who I did was that he or she was the only candidate I knew at all. In my post above, I highlighted many more problems with the current and the proposed system, but I feel that the most important thing is that students should somehow get to know the candidates better. I feel that this is the main reason for the gender imbalance, as, from my experience (this is coming from a guy), the males in my grade don't tend to make an effort to get to know girls, but they do try to get to know guys, whereas girls tend to get to know most everyone. I feel that this may be a reason for the gender imbalance, as it is simply who people know better. I feel that the candidates of all genders need to get themselves known around the entire high school.

    1. Since there isn't a "like" button on blogspot, so I will simply have to say.... I agree with you.

      I agree that the candidates ought to, as you said, "get themselves known around the entire high school."

      Also, I think that once the candidates have been elected, that they should do more to show the work of ALL of StuCo.

  33. How would we feel about a sports award that was open to all students but that used absolute measures of speed, endurance, and strength as factors? Why do we have boys teams and girls teams? Are there any ways that an electoral system might favor skills or traits that are not equally represented (statistically speaking) among boys and girls?