At the election assembly on Feb. 14, junior Sofia Cardenas and her friends held up signs urging peers to vote for her as a write-in candidate for ASB President.
“If 10 percent of the student body isn’t enough to change something, then what is?” Cardenas shouted after the meeting, as she displayed her posters in the S-Quad. She was referring to the petition circulated that included more than 200 signatures calling for Student Government to allow her to run.
Cardenas is protesting the Student Government policy that requires ASB presidential candidates to have at least one year of experience in the Student Government class.
Cardenas, who does not meet this prerequisite, believes “anyone should be able to run.” She objects to the policy because she believes the requirement is exclusive and does not allow for a true democratic election of the school’s student leaders.
“That makes no sense to me. It’s president of the student body, not Student Government,” Cardenas said.
Cardenas spoke with ASB adviser Eric Morgan and says he explained the class’ reasons for making the decisions. However, Cardenas called those reasons “pitiful.”
“When it’s Associated Student Body President, they should come from the student body, not a select group of 30 or so people who pick each other,” said junior Clare Evans, who is Cardenas’ friend and supporter. “We really want it to be a fair, equal election where anyone who’s passionate about this can run. We’re just really trying to change things here.”
Evans helped Cardenas gather signatures on a petition which Cardenas turned in along with her intent to run form.
Morgan later informed her that Student Government members, after class discussion, had decided to uphold their policy of limiting ASB President candidates to students with prior Student Government experience.
“We had a big 45-minute conversation about whether that rule should stand,” Morgan said. “And the Student Government class was divided on whether that rule should exist, for the same reasons that Sofia had. And then we continued that discussion in the leadership team meeting that we have on Mondays, and the leadership team, hearing both sides of the issue, decided that the rule should stand.”
Currently, only candidates for ASB President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary require prior Student Government experience.
All other positions, including class presidents, ASB School Board Representative, ASB Communications Commissioner and ASB Clubs Commissioner, do not require a year of experience in the class.
Because the prerequisites are outlined in the DHS Associate Student Body Constitution, “I’m not actually allowed to just change the rule,” Morgan said. “And if I did, I could lose my position [as adviser], because I violated the rules we have to follow.”
To amend the constitution, the leadership team—which consists
of the class presidents and the ASB officers—can vote to change the rule. Currently, the leadership team has voted to keep the rule.
“The team unanimously decided that you need to have experience,” Morgan said.
The constitution can also be changed if students present a petition
signed by 90 percent of the student body.
With more than 200 signatures on her petition, Cardenas currently has the official support of approximately
10 percent of the DHS student
Current ASB President Courtney
Jimenez believes Student Government
experience is crucial to her position.
“Very rarely are first-year students
confident enough to step into important leadership roles because they lack experience,” Jimenez said. “Experience provides a student with knowledge of how to approve funds, something we have to do for every single event, be innovative, answer questions, and set a good example for those who are new while being able to instruct others.”
According to Jimenez, it would be extremely difficult for new students
to run the class and oversee every aspect of the events ASB puts on when they lack experience running
these events themselves.
“In every other aspect of life, you cannot walk into a position of high importance. You have to work for it, and take every step necessary to get there […] Without the experience,
hard work and full commitment
to the class, a person is not adequately prepared to step into this leadership position,” she said.
Jimenez believes Student Government’s
policies are justified because
of her personal experiences.
“Having been thrown into an important leadership role my first year of being in the class, I can assuredly
say it is a very difficult thing to do,” she said. “I was constantly having
to ask questions and figure out the answers to things on my own. There was an abundant amount of pressure to make sure things went the right way.”
However, Evans believes such experience can be gained elsewhere.
“Sofia, for example, has a lot of leadership experience,” Evans said. “She was in student government in junior high school, she is involved in a lot of clubs, and it’s hard to say that in order to lead the class, you need to be in that class. I think that it’s completely reasonable to say that she could run. She is perfectly capable of picking up on what she needs to.”
Another concern Cardenas has regarding Student Government’s policy is that its process of interviewing
potential members of the Student Government class may exclude
sections of the school population,
leading to unfair representation,
“There’s an application process [to get into the class],” Cardenas said. “That’s all fine and dandy. But you pick your friends. I guess it’s good they’re all friends, but it means the class is just one social group, not the school.”
Evans also criticizes the process.
“Honestly, teenagers are not always
as objective as they like to think they are,” she said. “Student Government has gotten to the point, sadly, where it’s one very specific
social group. People are letting in their friends. […] A lot of these people are pretty disconnected from the rest of the student body. When they’re just with their little group of friends, they don’t know what the kids in the [Gay Straight Alliance] want, ‘cause they’ve probably never talked to kids in the GSA.”
Jimenez, however, believes that the current process allows for a fair representation of the school.
“Every student is capable of applying
to the class if interested, and if not accepted has many other opportunities
to represent their fellow peers through positions that do not require a year of experience,” she said. “Our class selection does its best to be diverse while selecting those students that are best capable for the job, and our election process provides students with other opportunities
to represent their fellow peers in positions of importance that do not require a year of experience in the class,” she said.
Morgan believes the rule can be argued either way, and stated that he supports his students’ decisions.
“Protest does not change laws. Protest puts pressure on people to change laws,” Morgan said. “It changes public opinion, so that laws get changed. Sofia is doing exactly what she should be doing when she’s unsatisfied with the rules.”
According to Evans, garnering publicity is exactly what Cardenas and her supporters are trying to do.
“We’re trying to get enough write-in votes to send the message that yes, the student body wants this changed,” Evans said. “If she gets enough votes to really send the message, we can change things, and in future years, everyone can run, and hopefully the way students get into the Student Government class will be changed.”