by Eva Midura, Staff Writer, November 2021
Is there truly a student government at Nobles, and how much power and influence over leadership do they really have? When asked what SLC, the well-known organization that represents the student body with four elected students from each class, stood for, seven out of ten students were under the impression it meant “student leadership council.” However, SLC is actually an acronym for “student life council,” and the aforementioned misinterpretation often results in discontent and protest from the student body concerning their class representatives “inadequate” performance.
The SLC’s main job is to act as a community builder. Rebecca Janfaza (Class I) said, “Our job at Nobles is to plan events and ensure a powerful connection is built within the community.” Janfaza was given an assembly shoutout by Provost Bill Bussey earlier in the year for taking initiative in organizing the club fair as well as organizing club meeting rooms and times for the year, an overwhelming task considering almost 50 clubs and organizations are offered at Nobles. SLC representatives also plan year-round social functions such as Fall Fest, come up with creative performances or videos in assembly, organize class breakfasts or afterschool socials, and connect with their peers to ensure the student body is content and feels heard. These jobs focus on the well-being of students and aim to provide exciting student life experiences. However, in terms of leadership and power, the council, which includes class presidents, does not have a lot of influence and authority.
“We don’t have power over decision-making, and our ideas run through many faculty who ultimately have the last word and often shut down our plans for more assertive leadership actions in the community,” said Student Body co-President Mary Connors (Class I). Co-President Sid Balu (Class I) shared the same sentiment. He added, “At the end of the day, Mary and I don’t truly have any executive power, and the vast majority of our ideas get rejected, with nothing really coming into fruition. When we are ambitious it tends to get shot down due to logistics.”
Students are often under the impression that SLC has the power to effectuate the student body’s preferences, but representatives are greatly inhibited by constritions such as budget. As Balu said, “It seems as though when we shoot for the stars, that’s really all we are doing.” Younger class representatives on SLC are particularly challenged with executing greater leadership roles in the community, as they aren’t taken as seriously. Their main job is to, as junior representative Nitty Moore (Class II) said, “Help throw out ideas from our classmates, as well as try to be a source of communication between the faculty and students.”). Lindsay Popeo (Class I) added, “SLC representatives deal with a lot of backlash from students over not satisfying everyone’s different opinions of planning enough events, when often they work really hard behind the scenes and don’t have the resources or authority to take on bigger leadership jobs.”
For instance, SLC sent out a survey with different theme options to vote on for the seniors’ Halloween theme this October. Ultimately, the most popular vote was “classic Halloween”—like witches, zombies, ghosts, and vampires—but Connors and Balu shared that they received many disappointed texts or complaints that students were unhappy, even though the decision was a direct product of the majority opinion.
Moreover, students often go as far as to say that not only are their ideas not being represented by SLC, but the representatives are not fairly chosen for their positions. Peter Del Col (Class I), said, “SLC is a popularity contest. The person elected is often not the most qualified, but the most liked.” Popeo backed up Del Col’s statement. She said, “Often a funnier speech and charismatic presence elevates your position more powerfully than merit and intention to spend a lot of time and effort on SLC jobs.”
However, taking into account the role SLC plays in the community—participating often in assembly, acting as a liaison between students and administration, spreading awareness for events, and being a comfortable resource for classmates to approach with ideas—is it necessarily a negative that a sociable, charismatic presence is elected for the job? Assuming that they are reliable to follow through on the workload that ensues, they should be best for the job. Connors shares that senior SLC and class presidents have weekly dinners with Head of School Cathy Hall, Ph.D, and many more meetings and calls throughout the week decorate the class presidents’ schedules.
The student body is often focused on the many shortcomings they believe SLC has. Perhaps SLC should be more focused on student leadership and act as a more structured conduit between students and administration. Yet, the hard work and time representatives allot to building a tight-knit community and exciting student life network, all while attempting to balance the opinions and desires of their peers is often forgotten.