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Class Politics

Part I: The Failure of Liberal Student Government Structure

Just this past weekend, the junior class, as we all know, egged the sophomore float. As usual, a napping administration kept it all quiet, summoning the junior and sophomore officers to the Student Life office (without faculty consent, again as usual), during second and third periods just this past Monday. And again, in its typical somnolent way, the administration let the juniors off, saying that it was a grievous mistake, would probably not happen again, and that, in the off chance that it did in the next couple of years (i.e. in the time before the class of 99 graduates and no student on campus remembers any longer), the class that might commit the crime might possibly be suspended from the float-building competition (with a serious reserved "maybe").

Now lets be serious here: who are we fooling!? The class officers of any class are supposed to be elected for their superior ability to maintain judgment, to maintain intelligent discourse, and to represent the whole of the class. We choose class officers on the assumption that they will do their utmost to maintain the respectability and the reputation of the members of the class.

Three of the five junior class officers were present at that egging, and two of them at least are known to have participated. And these, the cream of the class!? The elected officers, committing a veritable crime, damaging the property of prominent members of the Menlo community! As these class officers would have it, all members of the junior class are in it together, and should have class spirit and a class treasury, and class contests like Uglyman. They say all these things, all this drivel -- yet no sane man, no true human being, could even sanction such an action against the production, time, effort, and property of another group of law-abiding citizens. No sane man could be a member of such a class; many members of the junior class wish indeed that they might be promoted from such an insultingly desultory level to one a bit more . . . civilized.

The administration exhibited favoritism for the clique Shane Dizon calls the in crowd, the group which has always disproportionately monopolized student government at Menlo, with its PC phrases, its distinct ignorance of Roberts Rules of Order, and its tendency to break out every five minutes with hypocritical cries of Dont do drugs!, by letting the Junior class off without any sanctions whatsoever, and by telling our reporter that any move for impeachment was out of the question. Yet these class officers thus demonstrated no sense of responsibility, no sense of order, nor reality, nor property, liberty, equality -- all the central aspects of democratic government. They participated in an egging guaranteed to be destructive, and put no checks on their belligerent constituents. Perhaps the best description for this total lack of insight might be purposeful neglect.

But this apathy on the part of elected officials remains only a symptom of a larger problem with student government -- class officers have never truly had a stake in the society they are governing, while at the same time, under the present system, a substantial percentage of the student body remains unrepresented.

At Menlo, members of classes have very little in common. In each class there are people who like computers, people who enjoy sports, people who live for chess, those who do nothing but academics, and a few who are interested in anything extracurricular. There are all types of people in every class, and there is little to bind them together but the year they graduate -- even the age difference is astounding, as freshmen enter anywhere from age 13 to 16.They come from a variety of areas, with a variety of backgrounds, yet a single one dominates, as a virtual majority -- that of the so-called in-crowd. And, for this reason, the student council is dominated by members of the in-crowd, people who have known each other for years, who live in the Woodside-Atherton-Menlo Park-Portola Valley area, and who are the only ones united enough to maintain a majority in terms of class elections. They elect each other, while the rest of us sit around and watch and laugh and think they are being fascetious.

These self-elected officers share a single trait: all their constituencies suffer from a decided lack of unity in any discussion. The members of each class have such varied views, such differing opinions, that the officers could never possibly obtain anything coherent enough to be called a policy, and so these officers are free to manufacture such policy as they see fit. Such a freedom might be great, except that such self-elected officers are certainly not up to the task, and so they substitute with calls for greater involvement, more spirit, and meeting attendance. The officers have very little stake in the system, since they are not dependent on most of their constituents at all -- they are dependent only on a select, unified group of spirited friends, and so have a free reign. Above all, the classes are unnatural classifications for students, because students share nothing with the other members of their class but English courses.

The unrepresented portion of every class needs an outlet; only such a reasonable group of people as those who remain unrepresented - graduates from junior highs in San Jose, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Gatos, as well as those from the north -- can remove the problems so inherent in the conflict over float building. The juniors should be punished by elimination from the contest, and their class officers impeached, yet they will never be unless more reasonable officers are elected to every office on the council. Under the current system, no such thing could ever take place, and injustices against money, life, and property will continue to occur.

Part II: The Power of the Club

The amendments to the School Constitution mentioned in either this or the next edition of this paper are not enough to thoroughly revolutionize the system of this schools government, giving everyone an opportunity to participate, and giving far more equal representation. They simply attempt to establish the rights of the students, far less than equalizing the in vs. "out" conflict.

The solution to the problem lies in clubs. Every club at Menlo School has a president. These presidents come from all walks of Menlo Schoolism -- some are interested in skate-boarding, some in the classics, some in the United Nations, at least one or two in journalism -- they are diverse, and they represent nearly every sector of Menlos society. If all these club presidents met together, in a single room, they would represent the accumulation of the most serious and most involved aspects of Menlo.

Consider this scheme. Abolish the Student Council, and replace it with a new Grand Council, consisting of all the club presidents, assigned votes by the number of their members, and one member representing "un-clubbed" students (elected only by them), and one president, elected by the entire student body, with no votes. In this way, every single member of the student body would be reliably represented, most of the views of the students would be represented on the council, and council membership would be restricted to the most responsible, involved, and thinking members of the student body on campus. Of course this could be expanded to include sports, so that sporting activities might have representation, but that would be an unnecessary addition.

No more would the "class" structure exist, and I would have no need to write my concluding paragraph:

And so, when the next junior "class" meeting (with mandatory attendance . . . ha!) is called, consider what "class" meeting you, junior, should attend, thus: Am I of the "lower" or the "upper class". If you are of the "upper", then join the sane students of Menlo in boycotting meetings called by those three "class" officers, whose names I cannot even write (for fear of contaminating this paper), who are so crass as to orchestrate, and allow their constituents to cause, property and other damages to members of the Menlo community.


This page created for The Subterranean Crusader by John W. Earl. Last modified January 28, 1996.