As far as high school student governments go, CityWide Student Government is quite an admirable one. This academic year has seen bold progress as CityWide embraced its role as a forum for discussion among its members. (For those unaware, CityWide is the representative body for the students of all Minneapolis Public Schools, hosting monthly summits of a dozen representatives from each of the city’s public high schools.) As a result of efforts led by CityWide members, including some of our very own Southwest Senators, the School Board welcomed discussion on modernizing the District’s Electronics Policy.
The role of CityWide will become more crucial as the District evolves. With similar education plans being implemented district-wide and a considerable refocusing on attendance boundaries, the District is facing an overall homogenization—a move that will serve to unite the high schools under the MPS banner. This unity will rely much on CityWide. To evolve in accordance with the new responsibilities, there are significant flaws within the structure of CityWide that must be remedied.
First, the Executive Board must be elected via Direct Representation.
The current election method of the highest echelon of CityWide representation is much too anarchic and allows for certain schools to dominate the Exec Board. At the final meeting of the year, all in attendance are given an option to run for any of the ten positions (President, Vice President, Editor, etc.), with the only requirement being a minute-long candidacy speech. The winner of the Presidency acquires authority for the entirety of the following school year. Essentially, a first-time attendee to a CityWide meeting can take the stage, and should their charisma be adequate, take control of such a crucial organization of which they were never contributors.
Direct Representation strives to fix this flaw.
In Direct Representation, the student bodies of each Minneapolis Public High School would be allowed to select their Executive at CityWide. Instead of a hierarchy in the Executive Board, there would be “Ten Executives” of CityWide Student Government.
The benefits to this system are overwhelming. The tendency for South and Southwest to take up disproportionate amounts of seats on the Board will be countered. Healthy competition will arise as a natural by-product of having ten Executives all with large constituencies to represent.
Direct Representation is the first step.
Second, participation must be academically incentivized.
A youth organization reaches its highest level of legitimacy when academic incentive is provided for participation. In the case of CityWide, additional Social Studies credit is the natural award. The structure of the government will be best preserved if the members have academic incentives for participation. This will require discussion with Social Studies departments throughout the District.
Third, the Mission must be reinforced.
All members of CityWide should be required to memorize the Mission Statement of the government.
“We, the CityWide Student Government, are here to provide service and to voice the opinions of Minneapolis Public Schools students. Our goal is to create a positive, respectful, forum where students feel welcome to discuss their concerns and develop leadership skills. We will represent and unite students in the Minneapolis Public Schools district. We realize that students, administrators, staff, parents, and community all play an important role in education and we will work together to achieve the best education possible.”
This requirement, recited at the commencement of each summit, would reinforce the principle of “voicing opinions.” An encouragement of discussion has already taken hold of this year’s CityWide. The continuance of it can be insured by adequate reinforcement of the Mission Statement.
Fourth, the location of the monthly Summit must change.
CityWide has been well-served in its developmental stages by the lower level hall of northern Minneapolis’ Urban League. The evolution of the organization requires more suitable circumstances. A question of taste, what is clear about the venue of the Summit is this: a new location, better equipped for the capacity and progression of CityWide, is necessary. Such a move would vitalize the government, ensuring its progress.
These reforms will aid CityWide in its ambition to be relevant to the District over periods of extensive progress. In order to be efficient, the government must evolve. By modernizing its election method, academically incentivizing participation, reinforcing its mission, and adopting a more appropriate venue, CityWide will develop a strong resilience to the tendency of all too many student organizations—the tendency to slip into oblivion via irrelevance.
Author’s Note: I entered CityWide my sophomore year and admired the nature of the government from the very beginning. It is my whole-hearted intent that I leave the Student Government better than I found it. These four points are based off a close affiliation with CityWide throughout the past three years. Discussion and debate are at the core of the spirit of CityWide. I encourage any and all discussion and debate for the sake of CityWide Student Government.