Disclaimer: The following story expresses the view of the Chaparral Crier on Student Government voting and is in no way an attack on students involved in the club or any teachers associated with it.
A new semester brings new opportunities and with that new chances to change the way the school operates. Currently, students interested in running for Student Government are forming campaign policies and giving speeches to only fellow Student Government members. However, the voting system in place is biased and outdated. With elections in March, Student Government should consider changing the voting process. If the weight of each vote per body was redistributed in favor of the student body and candidates had to present a speech or biography easily accessed by students, the system would be more unprejudiced.
Voting is distributed evenly between three different bodies: the student body, current student government officials, and teacher sponsors. Each group’s vote counts for approximately 33% of the election. While some feel that a student body vote would be more effective, Student Government advisor Kathy Gappinger worries that by using only a student body vote, the system would evolve into a popularity contest. Instead, she believes that choosing a representative to vote for each class works better. In the Student Government vote, exiting seniors get a vote as well. “I didn’t get it at first,” Gappinger admitted since the system was implemented long before she was advisor. However, she believes it has become a way for the leaders of the school to hold each other accountable. The students within the class see how well other students work and whether they are willing to be committed or not while the rest of the student body cannot. The teacher sponsors vote is split between the two teachers per grade; so for example, the two sponsors for the sophomore class will only vote on the current sophomores who will be juniors the following year. A list of all candidates is also sent out to the entire Chaparral High School staff, so if any teacher or administrator knows of any major reasons a candidate would not represent the school well, Gappinger can approach the student and the staff member to better understand the issue and determine if the problem makes the student an improper fit for the job.
Another common question about Student Government is how the campaigning process works. To qualify to run for office, each student must have at least a 2.7 cumulative GPA, write and present a speech for StuGo, and provide some form of advertisement for Wish Week. They also have to write an essay and provide five recommendations, three of which must be teachers from Chaparral High School. As well, they need to have clean records when it comes to disciplinary actions. “I would like to take a look at if speeches can be filmed or something…” Gappinger claims about the process so that the student body can hear the speeches as well. Last year, Gappinger considered implementing a new process to campaign; however, Wish Week was the week after elections so time was limited.
After discussing the current system which has been in place since the beginning of student government at Chaparral High School with Gappinger, we would like to offer a few suggestions to create a more unbiased voting system. It is encouraging to hear that Gappinger is open to exploring new voting procedures. One change discussed was how campaigning should be done. A major concern Gappinger expressed is taking up too much of teachers’ time. “It’s hard to take away class time,” Gappinger said. One way to avoid eating into teacher instruction time is to have videos shown in homeroom or biographies posted on public domains. This will also keep the process from becoming revolved around popularity. Each candidate should be required to create a platform about the changes each candidate wishes to see within the school. These platforms should be publicly shared either through a video or biographies that can be easily accessed through either Student Government’s or the newspaper’s website. Rather than just seeing a first and last name on the ballot, students would have the opportunity to learn more about their classmates who may represent them.
Another change that may positively encourage the current system into a more fair process is changing the percentage breakdown of the voting parties and how the voting parties themselves are structured. The Student Government and teacher sponsors vote should be categorized together. Gappinger makes a very logical argument about the knowledge the StuGo class posses about each candidate and their potential for their ability to work hard. However, candidates will represent the students of the entire school, therefore the student body should have the majority vote. A proposed percentage breakdown is 70-30%.
Both Student Government and advisor Kathy Gappinger contribute greatly to Chaparral High School and their community, from canned food drives to all of Chaparral’s dances, and their work is greatly appreciated. With a few minor changes to the voting system itself, StuGo could become even more influential and better represent the entirety of the school.
By Jamie Nickel