At any given time, the walls of Stuyvesant are plastered with posters. Signs promoting clubs, student organizations, and election candidates litter the hallways, and dozens of students become involved in groups with every new recruitment cycle. Each year sees a group of students making their way up the ranks to become leaders, rising to positions ranging from head of a small club to captain of a team to president of the Student union. Each and every group has its own niche at Stuyvesant, but the Administration has identified five major organizations at the core of our school: Big Sibs, Arista, Red Cross, the Student union, and the Spectator. For as long as we can remember, ambitious students have been able to ascend to top ranks in more than one of these big five, but this is no longer the case. In an effort to create a more equal opportunity for students across the board, the Administration has introduced a new policy that permits a student to become the head of only one of the five aforementioned organizations.
The Administration’s argument regarding this new policy is that it is unfair and unreasonable to give large leadership positions to the same handful of kids year after year. The new policy lets more students get involved in organizations they feel are important to them. Not only that, it gives everyone who feels he or she is capable of getting the job done an equal chance to apply. Because, let’s face it: there’s always that one all-star kid who applies for all the leadership positions, and it can get intimidating. Kids who are legitimately interested in applying may be too scared to seriously consider applying to specific positions, but this new rule takes the pressure off. Now the school can filter out students trying to smack another gold star on their jam-packed college application and leave room for a broader pool of voices. The thinking is that a more diverse group of student leaders will result in more progress being made in each individual organization.
Plus, even just one leadership position is a lot of responsibility. we may be Stuyvesant students, but we’re no superheroes – especially when it comes to time management. the administration is worried that more than one commitment is simply too much for one person to take on, and the effort put into each individual role starts to wane.
However, this proposed change has been met with vehement criticism. Every single one of the leadership positions targeted by the policy is attain- able only through a rigorous application process involving written portions, interviews, and, in the case of the Student union, public elections. The people chosen to fill these slots are the ones deemed the best fit for the positions, whether or not they are already heading something else. In this situation, the changes actually restrict qualified and driven students – exactly the opposite of what this policy strives to do. Those who have already achieved a leadership position are clearly competent and deserving, and taking a spot away from them before they even apply is simply unfair. Leveling the playing field is one thing, but leveling it by getting rid of contenders seems wrong. Stuyvesant is a prestigious school that has long prided itself in being a meritocracy, and this new policy would take away from that.
The proposed change could also be disastrous to students in the process of applying to more then one of the affected positions. The fact that students can only hold one major office makes applying to more than one futile, since it is now impossible to get both. However, if a student chooses to forgo a specific application in an effort to focus all his or her energy on another, the spot is in no way guaranteed – the student could wind up with no position at all.
The worst part of this policy, however, is how vague it is – it was only just announced in a recent SLT meeting, and the scope of organizations affected by it is “subject to change.” For now, this extends to five major organizations, but who knows what will be included in the next few weeks? Sports teams? Other clubs and pubs? The administration has a track record of insidiously changing policies over time, so we have no idea what this will end up evolving into. It’s like the dress code: it was introduced with straightforward enough guidelines, but now it’s morphed into something much stricter, so that despite any official announcement, students with skirts anywhere above the knees get pulled over.
At this point, everyone can find something about this to support or disparage. There’s no denying the validity of some of the Administrations’ points, and those in opposition have some pretty sound arguments as well. The problem becomes the lack of transparency of the process itself. These decisions were made with little to no student involvement and only a shadowy understanding of student capability. For a change as major as this one, it’s important to hear what the affected organizations have to say about it. It doesn’t seem right to allow the Administration to regulate extra-curriculars without any student consideration or voice. The organizations we get involved in afterschool are, for the most part, student-run, so it makes no sense for the Administration to disregard student opinion before making any decisions.
It’s not even about leader- ship anymore; it’s about the Administration overstepping its boundaries and micro- managing student life. More and more frequently, the administration has taken a front seat in matters traditionally created for not just the rule enforcers, but for the students themselves. Over the last year, the administration has been consistently exerting its authority over the student body in new and different forms. SING! was shorter and more regulated than ever before. Students who dare bare their legs are haunted by a vague dress code, which is strictly enforced but loosely outlined. And now, we’re not allowed to hold more than one leadership position. It’s an understandable move on the part of the teachers, but a misguided one at best – Stuyvesant has been home to vibrant and thriving student organizations for as long as it’s been around, so why are we suddenly so eager to fix this? It’s easy to point fingers at a select few examples of powerhouse students who bite off more than they can chew and use them as the poster children for the new policy, but the fact is that this change will affect a lot of people, many of whom are actually able to cope with their responsibilities and keep their academic performance up just fine.
So whether or not we agree with the new policy, it’s essential that the administration bring the students into the discussion, and acknowledge that we are self-aware individuals, passionate about promoting the best interests of our community as well.