How Split Terms Split Stud Gov

“I just really like the idea of being able to give back to a community that I care about,” says Mica R. ’23. Mica gravitated towards leadership from a young age: since elementary school, she’s been a consistent member of student councils and boards. Lakeside Stud Gov represented a chance for Mica to give back to Lakeside and change it for the better — until her junior year.

During her sophomore year, Mica applied to spend her junior spring at the Mountain School in Vermont. Then she found out that another class of ’23 Stud Gov rep, Ali White (now a junior at Roosevelt High School), was applying to spend her fall semester away at the High Mountain Institute. “The gears just started turning,” Mica said: if elected, could she and Ali split a junior year Stud Gov term, each serving for a semester while the other studied away? It seemed a perfect way to venture beyond Lakeside but keep contributing to the community.

They brought the issue to Ms. Maiorano, then assistant head of the Upper School and a faculty advisor for Stud Gov. Ms. Maiorano told her that the question was outside her jurisdiction and one Stud Gov should settle for itself. However, “In hindsight, this is such a big decision that maybe it was not [Stud Gov’s] place to make it,” says Ali. “I think the administration should have recognized that it was their space to step in. And they did not.”

Elections for junior Stud Gov reps are extra competitive for a simple reason. According to the Stud Gov constitution, only junior year representatives are allowed to run for Student Body President the following year. For Ali, it was a negative aspect of the position: “That was this continuous stress on all of us that we needed to get our names on these projects” in order to have a chance at reelection and the presidency. “I don’t think that’s what Stud Gov is about, I think, or at least I don’t think that’s what it should be about,” she says.

Mica and Ali spent months discussing and proposing a series of amendments to the Stud Gov constitution. Could two juniors split a term? If so, could a junior representative still run for president if they’d only served for half the year? What if Stud Gov just allowed anyone who’d ever been a representative to run for president, increasing diversity of the candidate pool and broadening opportunities?

Stud Gov voted to reject all of them, some just a single vote short of a three-quarters majority. “It was definitely a bummer,” Mica says. Then, she and Ali found out they’d been reelected for junior year and accepted to semester schools. Both had to choose between spending a semester away and their chance at Stud Gov presidency. Both chose semester school.

They speculate a few reasons their amendments didn’t pass. Mica points to Lakeside’s love of tradition, which can sometimes manifest as resistance to change. “There’s kind of a mindset of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’” she says. “If we Lakeside students had a more outside-of-the-box mindset, it could have gone differently.” Mica and Ali also agree that the presidential election and the school’s general culture of competitiveness were significant factors. 

Luke L. ’23, the current Stud Gov president-elect, thinks the reasons the amendments failed were more practical. “A big part of being on Stud Gov is being involved in the community,” he says. Returning after a semester, or running for president after months away would be difficult—“it’s pretty hard to just get back into it.” 

Both Mica and Ali loved their respective semesters away. “I would not change my choice at all,” says Mica. “You know, Stud Gov is amazing as well, but it’s different than spending four months in Vermont.” Still, they believe that the amendment drama points to deeper problems within Stud Gov.

Ali and Mica say the issue of Stud Gov being slow to change and take action is bigger than semester away. Both describe the Lakeside administration slow-rolling even the simplest Stud Gov projects. When they wanted to place higher-quality menstrual products in the bathrooms, it took months for administrators to approve the proposal and nearly another semester for it to actually be implemented. That was their sophomore year; by now, the comfortable tampons have once again vanished from the bathrooms, replaced by cheap cardboard. 

If we Lakeside students had a more outside-of-the-box mindset, it could have gone differently.

Some of that is just the nature of campus activism. It’s hard to create lasting change when the student body turns over every four years, but according to Ali, some of the fault lies with Lakeside. “I felt like in my experience, the administration preaches something but then they might not have actually wanted that to happen” — like Stud Gov serving as changemakers at Lakeside. “Student Government will promote the interests of the student body,” reads Stud Gov’s constitution. Ali thinks they’re falling short. 

Mica synthesizes her hopes for Stud Gov’s growth into a single goal: “The direction I would like to see it going in is to be putting more effort into those smaller things, the ones that actually make the biggest impact and influence,” such as transparency. She suggests a simple strategy that a Stud Gov-like organization at the Mountain School’s uses: sending out meeting notes to any students interested to be clear about topics of discussion and upcoming plans. 

Luke also hopes to implement change next year, but he is more focused on beginnings. “I feel like probably every president thinks ‘people are unhappy and I’m going to be the one who stops it.’” Luke understands that a year is not that much time to create systemic evolution within Stud Gov. “I’ll start something, then get people to build on it,” he says. And maybe that’s how a student government should work.