Thursday, April 5, 2012

Student Leadership Proposal Submitted by Jordan F.

*This proposal assumes that the current treasurer position will be replaced by a “Business” activity. This comes from conversations Jordan F. has had with some of the members of the admin team. If you would like any clarification or elaboration as to how that would apply to the proposal in a way that is not otherwise apparent, contact us with your questions.

Problems addressed:
  • The Student Council cannot adequately focus on school policy decisions due to its additional role as an event planning committee.
  • The Student Council generally responds to problems only after they have arisen and become high-profile issues.
  • There is insufficient voter education concerning the function of Student Council and the roles of the Student Council representatives prior to elections.
  • The current election system does not properly reflect the will of all the voters.
  • There is currently no official record of election data.
  • There is a large lack of information regarding the social implications of the student election results at OES, particularly, the attitudes and perceptions about the opportunities and limits of girls (as compared to boys) in the different types of leadership positions on campus.
Principles:
  • Student Council accurately and transparently represents the interests and the desires of the entire student body.
  • Student Council has the potential to do more than respond to problems; it should actively seek out and envision creative ways to improve the School.
  • Student Council takes a major role in discussing and deciding policy issues within the School.
  • There are many different, legitimate forms of leadership.
  • Student Council, Discipline Committee, and Class Board elections are valuable tools for democracy and leadership training, for both the candidates and voters.
  • The acts of running for office and serving as an elected officer are acts of service.
  • The student body is capable of choosing its own representation, and should be faced with as few limitations in doing so as is possible.
  • Every student has an equal opportunity to declare him/herself a candidate and run for office(s).
  • Lasting and meaningful progress can only originate internally-- from the student body itself.
  • Responsible policy can only be created following thorough and thoughtful research...
Present recommendations:

I. Events Planning Committee

Create a committee (separate from Student Council) for planning events (this includes dances such as Homecoming, Semiformal, and Prom, as well as other dances, open mic nights, movie nights, game nights, etc.)
  • Student Council should focus on policy issues and creating ways to improve the school and the OES experience.
  • Voters should not have to decide between a candidate who will be able to do “serious” work and someone who will plan a fun dance or other social event.
  • This committee will increase the amount of leadership opportunities at OES in a legitimate and meaningful way.
  • This committee will increase the amount, variety, and ultimately, the quality of fun and inclusive events for the student body.

The committee will consist of:
  • 2 representatives from each class, elected by their respective classes
  • 2 representatives from the dorms; 1 elected by the boys’ dorm, and one elected by the girls’ dorm.
  • The Student Council vice-president, elected by the whole school (See Section II).

The committee will work cooperatively with Student Council, Class Boards, the management of the Student Store, etc. as necessary.

II. Restructure the seats on Student Council, and reaffirm other offices

Defined:

  • Student Council is an organization through which the student body is given representation in creating and implementing policy at OES. Some members are elected in a general election, and others are elected by individual classes.
  • Discipline Committee is an organization through which the student body is given representation in the evaluation of major rule infractions, and in determining fair and appropriate punishments as consequences. Students members are elected by their individual classes, with the exception of the president, who is elected in a general election.
  • Class Board is an organization through which individual classes of students are given representation to their head class advisors and grade deans. The Class Board is also responsible for planning events specific to the class they serve.



Student Council will consist of:
  • 1 president
  • 1 vice-president
  • 1 secretary
  • 1 representative from each class (4)
  • 1 representative from the dorms

Discipline Committee will consist of:
  • 1 representative from each class (4)
  • 1 representative from the dorms
  • The student body president

Class Boards will consist of:
  • 4 representatives from each class, including the Student Council representative

Qualifications to run for positions of president*, vice-president, and secretary:
*The position of president is open to seniors only. Vice-president and secretary positions are open to all students.

  • Public written notice declaring candidacy, as well as a statement explaining in further detail the candidate’s intentions for running for the presidency. The statement should primarily serve as a response to the questions,

“Why are you running for this position?”

“What qualifies you for the position, considering its responsibilities? [Candidates may include a summary of relevant leadership experiences, personal values, etc.]”

“What goals (general or specific) would you like to achieve during the school year, and how do those fit in with your vision for the future of the Upper School?”
  • Approval of advisor and parent
  • Willingness to disclose disciplinary record (if any) to the voters

Qualifications to run for class/dorm representative, Class Board, DC representatives:
  • Self-nomination to head-class advisor
  • A speech to their respective classes during Class Meeting before the election indicating why they are running, why they are qualified, and what they would want to accomplish, achieve or change while in office.

Responsibilities of President:
  • Represent the interests of all Upper School students
  • Represent the mission of the School
  • Set the agenda for, and facilitate Student Council meetings
  • Find and implement creative and effective solutions to problems at OES; actively seek out ways to improve the School
  • Commit to ongoing growth as a leader
  • Facilitate Upper School Gathering
  • Attend meetings for the Board of Trustees representing the interests of the student body
  • Serve on the Discipline Committee
  • Serve on the Curriculum Review Committee
  • Prepare and deliver speeches at events including the Belltower Ceremony, Open House, Back to School Night, etc.
  • Carry the school banner at Graduation
  • Set the tone for school culture and conduct

Responsibilities of Vice-President:
  • Represent the interests of all Upper School students
  • Represent the mission of the School
  • Attend Student Council meetings
  • Find and implement creative and effective solutions to problems at OES; actively seek out ways to improve the School
  • Commit to ongoing growth as a leader
  • Stand-in for the president or secretary in the event of an absence
  • Serve as a liason to the Events Planning Committee
  • Support and oversee the management of other student organizations on campus
  • Set the tone for school culture and conduct

Responsibilities of Secretary:
  • Represent the interests of all Upper School students
  • Represent the mission of the School
  • Attend Student Council meetings
  • Find and implement creative and effective solutions to problems at OES; actively seek out ways to improve the School
  • Commit to ongoing growth as a leader
  • Take notes during Student Council meetings
  • Take notes during Gathering
  • Publish notes in a public forum (blophish?)
  • Set the tone for school culture and conduct

Responsibilities of Class/Dorm representatives:
  • Represent the interests of constituent groups
  • Attend Student Council meetings
  • [Class representatives serve on respective Class Boards]
  • Find and implement creative and effective solutions to problems at OES; actively seek out ways to improve the School
  • Commit to ongoing growth as a leader
  • Set the tone for school culture and conduct

Responsibilities of Discipline Committee representatives:
  • Represent the interests of constituent groups (as they relate to the nature of the infraction)
  • Represent the letter and the spirit of the OES mission and handbook rules
  • Attend Discipline Committee meetings as necessary to hear and fairly decide cases
  • Commit to ongoing growth as a leader
  • Set the tone for school culture and conduct

Responsibilities of Class Board representatives:
  • Represent the interests of the class to the head class advisor and grade dean
  • Attend Class Board meetings
  • Facilitate Class Meetings
  • Find and implement creative and effective solutions to problems at OES; actively seek out ways to improve the School
  • Plan and program class-specific events
  • Commit to ongoing growth as a leader
  • Set the tone for school culture and conduct

Election timing:
All elections are held in May of the school year prior to which the officers will serve their terms, with the exception of the Freshmen class representatives, Class Board, and DC representatives, who are elected in September.

III. Modify the election system

This change is based on the rationale that a fair election selects for the candidate who is considered, at the very least, an acceptable choice by the most students. Further, it recognizes that complicated choices can never be made with a simple “yes” or “no”. It is a step in the direction of consensus, rather than a competition of absolute decisions.

A ranking system favors candidates who satisfy the most people overall. To do this, it considers the order of preferences for all candidates, rather than limiting the voter to only one way to express his/her opinion. It creates a fuller, more realistic representation of the will of the voters than a simple majority election. The examples below illustrate how the differences between the two systems might play out in real scenarios.

  1. Voters rank all the candidates on a preferential ballot
  1. Each first place vote is worth a number of points equal to the number of candidates, second place votes are worth one less, third place votes are worth two less... etc.
  1. The candidate with the most points is declared the winner

Example 1
                                                            Candidate A    Candidate B     Candidate C     Candidate D

First place Votes (4 points)                120                  90                    50                    40
Second Place Votes (3 points)           40                    140                  70                    50
Third Place Votes (2 points)               40                    50                    110                  100
Fourth Place Votes (1 point)               100                  20                    70                    110

Candidate A: (4 x 120) + (3 x 40) + (2 x 40) + 100 = 780
Candidate B: (4 x 90) + (3 x 140) + (2 x 50) + 20 = 900
Candidate C: (4 x 50) + (3 x 70) + (2 x 110) + 70 = 700
Candidate D: (4 x 40) + (3 x 50) + (2 x 100) + 110 = 620
Winner according to the current system: A
Winner according to the proposed system: B

Example 2
                                                            Candidate A    Candidate B     Candidate C
First place Votes (3 points)                160                  100                  40       
Second Place Votes (2 points)           20                    160                  120                 
Third Place Votes (1 point)                 120                  40                    140

Candidate A: (3 x 160) + (2 x 20) + 120 = 640
Candidate B: (3 x 100) + (2 x 160) + 40 = 660
Candidate C: (3 x 40) + (2 x 120) + 140 = 500
Winner according to the current system: A
Winner according to the proposed system: B

In the above cases, although there is strong support for A (based on the number of 1st place votes),  there is also strong disapproval (based on the number of 3rd and 4th place votes). B, on the other hand, has a high number of 1st and 2nd place votes, indicating that he/she is more widely preferred than A, who has a majority of 1st place votes, but also a very high number of 3rd and 4th place votes.

The current system provides for a run-off in the case of no majority, which addresses this issue in some cases, but ignores the significance of the range of preferences for the candidates from the original candidate pool, and fails to adequately represent the best interests of those voting in minority in the original election.

The system could be adapted with qualifying minimums and/or weights attached to the votes in order to prevent misrepresentation of the votes, and to reflect specific values.
For example, it may be decided that 1st place votes should carry more weight than the others, or that any candidate with greater than a certain percentage of 4th place votes cannot be considered. It might also be wise to adapt a range for a run-off, such that if candidates have scores within a certain range of each other, a run-off election is held to clarify the decision.

While this may seem like a sophisticated change to those unfamiliar with the “preferential ballot”, in reality, the system is not difficult to institute, and the benefits far outweigh the additional time it takes to count the votes.

Perhaps this could be a digitalized system...

IV. Voter Education

To hold elections whose results benefit the student body rather than harm it, it is imperative to ensure that every voter is as informed as possible.
At OES, students must have a good knowledge of the function of the Student Council, Discipline Committee, and Class Boards, and understand the responsibilities for each position. As voters, they must carefully decide which of the candidates best serves his/her personal interests as well as the interests of the School.
Relying on experiences, observations, and impressions of the candidates, the voter should evaluate the qualifications of each and determine which best meets his/her expectations, considering not only the individual candidates, but the group dynamic of each committee as well.

In order to achieve these goals, the following is proposed:
  • Extend the election season by 1 month to allow candidates more time to formally and informally interact with voters
    • Each candidate is required to address the Upper School in a speech
    • Each candidate is required to respond to student questions in a panel moderated by Class Boards
    • Most importantly, candidates have the opportunity to address smaller groups: Class Meetings, lunch meetings, etc.
  • Generate an organized conversation in the student body
    • Set up groups (randomized, deliberately chosen, or both) in which students discuss, from their own perspectives, questions similar to/including, but not limited to the following:
      • What qualities and characteristics make a good leader?
      • What are the different skillsets required of each position?
      • What is important to consider when you listen to a candidate?
      • What would you like to see out of Student Council?
      • How might a candidate be more or less valuable, not as an individual, but based on his/her ability to cooperate with other Student Council representatives?
      • What different types of leadership skills are essential?
Future work:

I. Data Collection

In reading “Student Leadership Proposal Draft III”, it has become apparent that little research has been conducted on the topic of leadership (elected or non-elected) at OES. It is unethical and irresponsible to create policy based on assumptions and unsubstantiated conclusions.
Therefore, it is necessary to investigate several matters surrounding student leadership, especially as it applies to the claim of (implicit or explicit) sexism in the voting body, the culture of the Upper School, and the perceptions and attitudes facing the expectations and limits of female leaders (elected and non-elected).
This study should include:
  • Focus group interviews (as cited in the Princeton and Duke studies on female leadership)
  • Surveys
  • Data collection from every future election
    • Demographics of the candidates and winnners
    • Voting records
    • etc.
Obviously, the creation of any study should be done with the consultation of those with experience and knowledge of sociological research methods.

3 comments:

  1. Kyle S., Patrick M., Rebecca C., Matt F., Natalie L., and Allie H. deserve credit as well!!!

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  2. Assuming one is necessary, the faculty advisor of the Events Planning Committee will not be required to chaperone every event.

    The faculty advisor for the Student Council should not be a member of the administration. Administrative members will still have access to the secretary’s notes from each meeting and will still be able to attend meetings when they believe it is necessary. The faculty advisor should not have any more requirement that any other faculty member to chaperone events.

    Regardless of the system used to chose a winner, it’s important that a)\voters are allowed to express their desires through a preferential ballot and that b) winners are chosen based on the amount of people they will satisfy rather than the amount of people who have them as a first choice.

    An alternative voting method can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/a/go.oes.edu/document/d/1F4-VtjX7bupbU9DUVzB-_2vHlGDB06gzW6cCLBiBZns/editI

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  3. I strongly agree with Kyle that the student council chaperone should not be a member of the administration. It does not seem fair to me that the body representing the view of students to the administration is overseen by a member of the administration. It creates to much bias and hinders open and frank discussion in student council about the administration and any issue that may need to be communicated to them. I have no doubt that Jordan and Deri have done there best this year to remain impartial as student council advisors and aid Stuco to the best of their ability but I really think that it is not appropriate for them to be in that position.

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