Mutual engagement is essential for student voice


Maddy Fisher

FAIR GAME. Student Activities Committee leaders Mimi Huelster and Autumn Spaulding consult with SAC advisor Mallory Schmidt to make an announcement at the ping-pong tournament Sep. 19. SAC planned a variety of activities for each day of homecoming week. “Organizing ping pong was super fun,” Huelster said. “It was a pain to only have one table but it was still really awesome.” SAC did a great job of setting a tone of keeping tradition while adding new opportunities for student participation.

While the administration is the face of decision making at SPA, much of the school’s culture is shaped by student-led groups. If the school is truly living the mission, student leadership should be central to shaping school policy, activities, and culture.
The school has six elected and selected student organizations, each holding their own importance. According to the Texas Association of School Councils, student led committees can strengthen culture, relationships and leadership. These values are essential to the foundation of school.
The largest council at SPA in terms of size is the Upper School Council. According to their motto, they serve as the “liaison between students and administrators.” This organization receives the harshest criticism as they are responsible for representing student voice.
Students often complain that USC hardly has an impact on their non-academic life. A lot of the work that they do, such as the annual blood drive or the house cup competition, goes unnoticed.
According to a journal article published by the Werklund School of Education, the most successful student councils thrive because of both their own efforts and through the response of the community. A more effective approach should involve mutual engagement. That means that while the council should continue to introduce new activities policies, students need to be more actively involved.
After years of online and hybrid school, speculation around the purpose of elected groups has arisen. USC should advocate more for their ambitions and their achievements. They should post more on opinion boards, make more frequent announcements, and reach out to students on a daily basis.
The status quo around USC doesn’t have to feel segregated from the student body.
While USC focuses on policies and culture, the Committee for Community Conduct, or C3, enforces the rules. They “meet at the discretion of the Dean of Students and the Principal to hear cases ranging from repeated minor offenses to breaches of major school guidelines and to make recommendations for consequences.”

While the council should continue to introduce new activities policies, students need to be more actively involved.

Naturally, C3 gets a bad rep from the student body, even though the work they do is important for the functioning of the school.
According to an article by PowerDMS, one of the most effective ways to enforce policies is to stop breaches at the root. While C3 focuses on hearing cases, they should focus more on informing and reminding students of the rules.
While stopping mistakes before they happen is essential, slip-ups will occur occasionally. According psychologist Janet Metcalfe, “students learn the most from mistakes that are corrected.”
When offenses to the school’s policy happen, C3 should make it clear that these actions aren’t acceptable by sharing more about expectations and reinforcing good conduct norms in the broader community when infractions arise. This will encourage students to take a more honest, safe approach in the future.
In terms of equality, there is always more work that can be done to create more equitable community. The Student Intercultural Life Council (SILC) is the bridge between administration and the student body. The council hopes to have students play a larger role in diversity, equity and inclusion based decision making.
Currently, the administration and faculty does the majority of DEI work. Students make up the largest population at the school, but they aren’t given a large enough platform to voice their concerns.
According to the University of California, Davis, “interactions [between students] can increase comfort with each other.”
Students should be the ones leading discussions surrounding inclusion, and should push to make more announcements or host culture related assemblies and events.
The connections between the administration, the student body and elected councils are in limbo. The current elected groups at school don’t do enough to reach out to their intended audience; hence, they are unable to represent their community’s demands.
However, students should also actively engage with the organizations that represent them. Students should spend less time hoping for change and invest more energy into advocating for themselves.
Mutual communication is crucial for taking larger steps forward.