By Laurynas Pikutis, from the Woluwe Independent archive.
A look into the EEB2 student representative elections and what goes down once they have been elected.
Every year, the students of our school elect one president to be the middle-man between them and the administration. This representative has the power to talk to the administration of our school directly and has the easiest access to people of importance when it comes to any ideas that students might have. Yet, every year, students dread the day a new president is elected. Almost every candidate starts with “I won’t make any false promises this year…” and each and every single one of us gawp at each other, each of our lips mimicking the words to each other “no false promises” while we prepare ourselves for what will be the next list of ideas this candidate might have. Promises of gaming consoles, parties, freedom to leave school grounds whenever we please, and no homework. Seems like quite the wonderland for every student and it definitely makes sense, to the wild party animal, deep inside me, to vote for a candidate who promises all these wonderful things. So why do none of these ideas ever reach daylight?
With the way our elections are set up, prospective candidates have very little time to decide if they will be running and what they will be attempting to achieve. Essentially their speeches are written in a few days, and self-advertising before the speeches is rarely even attempted. It all comes down to having the biggest appeal in the crowd with your speech. Impressing all those faces. However, we are a harsh bunch. We vote based on who’s promise will be more appealing to us. We know it’s all unrealistic in the end, but we say to ourselves; just in case one of them manages… I’d rather have this, as it appeals to me more.
Once the president has been elected, the voice of our students is chosen, we sit back and patiently wait for the lessons to start disappearing from of our schedules, the Xboxes to start raining, and the never ending rave parties to start. In the meantime, the newly elected president gets a rundown of what powers they have, who they still have to elect, and what yearly projects they already have to start work on. They get buried in work for the first month, simply having to catch up with what they hadn’t known up until then, electing people for the already planned events that need organising.
Given some time, they finally get the opportunity to throw some of their own ideas to the administration and hope that something sticks.
You may have heard me ask one of our candidates, in a slightly arrogant tone, whether or not they had actually ran any of their ideas by the administration. While I might’ve seemed simply truculent and complacent right after, while listening to their vague non-answer, I knew exactly why I asked the question I did.
Every idea that the elected president or it’s assisting group leaders might have, has to be submitted to the administration of our school, explained with reason, and approved. Every time an idea surfaces, there is a meeting with whoever is in charge of the budget, to explain why it costs as much as does, and why those costs cannot be avoided. Next, is a meeting with the top officials of the school, to explain the proposal, how it will positively affect our environment within the school, our wellbeing, and how it is of any benefit to the students. A lot of these ideas are thrown out along this first step of the way, some for obvious reasons.
However, I could be here all day naming the number of people that came to the CDE (comité des élèves) with ideas that actually had all of these concerns thought out. They would’ve brought joy to the students, profits to the school, and would not have interfered with lessons. However, many people with ideas also forget that this is an educational environment and our administration would prefer to keep it this way. They do not wish to take up responsibility for parties that could get out of hand, and do not wish to focus more on each one of us having fun, than they focus on making sure we get our schoolwork done, and pass our tests. They are not here to organise raves or buy us video games to play during our free time.
There is always that one golden idea, the one that might pass and slip through all of the criteria. The school agrees that it is affordable, that it would bring positivity to our students and that it would not affect our studies. However, there is just one more step. The one most of us never even see coming, and find the most irritating. Everyone in the administration has a different opinion and a set of principles, which they often choose over rational thinking.
Several years ago, an idea that seemed very reasonable, profitable for both the organisers and the school, was approved at every step until it came to the very top of the administration, after all, they have the last say. I was in that meeting too. My jaw hit the floor when our idea was thrown right out the window out of principle. With everything seeming so well up until then, it came as a surprise not getting the approval. However, we soon learned that this is the sad reality. If an idea stands heavily against someone’s principles, and they have the last say, there is nothing you can do about it. Your idea gets tossed, and you get to walk back to your group in shame, having to explain to them why this has happened. This is a hard fact to face, however this is something that has to be accepted and dealt with.
Everything, no matter how small or simple, has to be approved by the administration.
That is exactly why I asked my question and why many of the promises made by candidates never get anywhere. With all this in mind, I’d like to directly speak to any future candidates. Facing the roaring crowd, of what seems like vultures ready to rip you to pieces, might seem scary, especially if you’re not ready to please them with unrealistic promises. However, there is one simple thing that will most often push you over to the winning side. Take 30 minutes out of your day and find a person within the school’s administration (You’ll have to deal with them all anyway, might as well make some friends early on) that is willing to listen and talk with you about your ideas. Principal School Advisor is usually best for this. Go to them, and ask, which ideas are reasonable to push, and which will get you laughed at. That way, at least you will have a more realistic and truthful speech to face the crowd with, not just vague ideas you came up with the night before. And for once, YOU will be the president who didn’t make any false promises.