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Balancing Gender on Student Council
charles jones 12 staff writer
April 28, 2011

The newly-minted Culture Club wrote and submitted three proposals that tackle the problem of gender-imbalanced representation on Student Council. These plans range from establishing dual gender co-presidents with the elimination of the Chair position to a more moderate gender equality mandate that would maintain the current president/chair system while requiring that each class’ representatives be gender balanced.

Science teacher and Culture Club founder Brian Fry lauded the club’s stance. “I believe gender issues on campus are manifested in leadership roles,” he said.

“Statistics show over the last ten years the breakdown has been roughly 70% male, and we’ve only had one female president in that time,” Mr. Fry continued.

At a Culture Club meeting earlier this month, club advisor and health teacher Kristin Loftus commented, “Student Council is a representative body; perhaps its membership should more accurately reflect the equal gender breakdown of the student body.”

Currently, the fifteen-member council is composed of ten boys and five girls. That imbalance does not stretch into the highest level of leadership, however.

“The President and Chair are on an equal plane, and are often gender balanced,” said Student Council Chair Ellie Parker ’11. “The two positions are differentiated by delegation of duties and not by prestige.”

Parker continued, “I support the trickle-up proposal, in which all classes elect both a girl and boy rep, while ensuring the presidential and chair elections remain organic.”

Another, more restrained counterproposal came in light of the discovery that female students are indeed elected despite representing only a small fraction of the candidate pool on election day. Council representatives are now working to encourage untapped yet qualified girls to consider running for election.

“I would be really impressed if Council, leaders in the community, and adults could sustain an effort to encourage girls to run…but I realize it might be more effective to model a balanced council first,” said Parker.

Some members of Culture Club and Student Council argued that socially engineering student government removes the democratic element, and thus reduces its symbolic weight. At the Culture Club meeting, various versions of the claim “we want the best council possible, regardless of gender breakdown,” were heard early and often.

This cry for meritocracy will need to be weighed against the nearly unanimous agreement of the Student Council with student body President Charles Giannini ’11, who said, “Gender equality must be a top priority in leadership positions. The question that remains is how best to achieve it.”