The Future of Student Council

An editorial by Matt Schrimper

The University of Virginia Student Council has the potential to become the premiere student governing body in the United States within a few short years, if committed student leaders initiate and execute a focused plan.

The primary determinant of Student Council’s success is the people that Council is composed of, but the Council’s greatest dilemma remains its inability to develop and sustain young talent. While Honor, UJC, and Class Councils do a tremendous job of selecting leaders through competitive processes, Student Council fails at recruiting, challenging, and utilizing the talent that is ubiquitous at the University. Student leaders who do join Council often become jaded and disillusioned by the organization’s institutionalized barriers to improvement. Meanwhile, Council is often either unable to significantly advance or complete its most noteworthy efforts or it finds these projects taken over by the University administration. This dilutes the concept of student self-governance and makes for a broken system that needs to be fixed.

The first step toward a solution is for a large group of well established, well connected, and well-respected students to run for election in the spring. 

The second step is to encourage these representatives to seek out positions of leadership within Council committees. Representatives presently become frustrated by oftentimes worthless debates within a Council that sometimes seems disconnected from each other and the world outside. When these same students become leaders within Council, they become more invested in the entirety of the organization’s undertakings.

The third step is to revamp the formation of committees. Committees should be formed by summer and the primary focus in the fall should be to recruit the top First Year talent through orientation, the activities fair, First Year Council, and the House Councils. Selection will be competitive and it will, once again, be an honor to be a part of Student Council.

The fourth step is to engage all committee members and to better connect them with the rest of Student Council. Many motivated students join a Student Council committee, but never interact with Council leadership and are never asked to attend a general body meeting.

The fifth step is to promote the practice of a Third Year serving as Student Council President on a fairly regular basis. Unlike UJC and Honor, whose task is to maintain order and regulate conduct at the University, Student Council is a governing body that must advance ideas and projects that take years to develop. If former Student Council presidents remain involved with Council for their Fourth Year, there would be a noticeable trend of Student Council initiatives being seen through to completion.

An effective and respected Student Council at the University is central to our claim of student self-governance. The frustrations some people may have with Council are not for want of caring, but, rather, from a recognition of a tremendous potential that is not yet realized. The realization of this potential rests with exceptional individuals, whose collaboration and dedication will allow for a parade of ideas and accomplishments to follow suit.

 

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