One might think that my year on the Student Staff Council (SSC) would give me a well-rounded perspective on what the group actually does, but, to this day, I still have no clue. When I ran for SSC as a freshman, I remember being given a vague definition of what SSC actually is. From what I gathered, it functioned as a student government—a place where you could propose ideas and plan events for the betterment of the school. If SSC actually functioned in this way, it would undoubtedly be an effective sector of GDS’ culture. However, it fails to do so. But that doesn’t mean SSC can’t turn around for the better.
For the year I was a representative, I was always confused about what we were actually trying to achieve. However, I recognize that my freshman year was a weird one. With COVID and hybrid school, SSC functioned differently than it normally does timing-wise.
“I have no idea what SSC does,” freshman Evelyn Chen said. “I was never told when I came to GDS what it actually is.” She said she was not even 100 percent sure of all of her grade’s representatives’ names.
Senior Lizzie Rosenman and sophomore Adriano Arioti also had a similar perspective to Chen’s. They both had little idea of who their SSC grade representatives are since they don’t look over the details of the emails sent out by the group each week.
So how are people supposed to take advantage of their representatives’ help if they are not sure who they are? This lack of fundamental knowledge is clearly something SSC needs to improve, as it leaves students with confusion as to who they can go to with suggestions for improvement.
Students’ unfamiliarity with the people who serve on SSC could be changed through simple measures. After SSC elections each year, the newly elected students should make a more active effort to introduce themselves to their grade. And to make sure that students remember their representatives, it would be advisable to have the representatives run some portion of their class meetings to create a more dynamic relationship between the students on SSC and the student body.
When I was on SSC, representatives would come up with brilliant ideas to improve GDS. I heard ideas ranging from using social media for the group to using games to promote attendance at office hours. Unfortunately, though, a majority of the ideas never came to fruition.
It is clear that SSC has a transparency issue. While writing this article, I told the representatives who I requested an interview with that all I wanted to know was their plans for this year. But all of them still declined an interview, several of them citing the fact that they were nervous about repercussions of sharing their work. It makes sense that students don’t have much knowledge about what SSC does because they seem to be quite secretive about their plans. Their secrecy makes no sense. If SSC’s goal is to make a change in the GDS community, then they first must be transparent with the student body, a simple reform that would completely alter students’ sense of the group’s responsibility.
Arioti said that he would be open to going to his SSC representatives with an issue, but does not expect much would come from it. This expectation of inaction was a common critique I developed while I was on SSC; classmates would constantly come up to me and complain about their homework load, teachers and more and expect some kind of change to be made, but I simply had no idea which adults to bring these issues to.
The last issue with SSC that I did not expect to encounter was the student body’s fear of SSC. I was declined by 15 students for an interview to hear their opinions. Seven of them said that it was because they were scared their SSC representatives and/or the SSC president would be upset.
This fear says a lot about students’ view of SSC. First, students do not have a good perception of SSC, and second, students are scared of irritation from a group that exists to benefit them. I remember my classmates would tell me they assumed I thought I was superior to them because I was on SSC, which is definitely not good for the SSC-student relationship, and likely contributes to the overall lack of student interest in SSC. I believe students’ fear combined with feelings of tension leads to a lack of student collaboration with the group. In our meetings last year, we would always try to come up with creative ideas to get students more involved. But it never occurred to me that the lack of student involvement originates from the hostility that people feel toward SSC.
SSC, in theory, is a group that could vastly improve GDS students’ lives. I suggest that SSC focus more on student collaboration by working on involving the representatives more in GDS’ school-wide and grade-wide meetings. Better communication would also allow the group to explain their current plans to a wide audience. With more transparency, SSC would foster a better relationship between themselves and the student body. From my inside and outside view, the group has a long way to go.