Student Alliance needs to shore up allies

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Student Alliance needs to shore up allies

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Everyone at New Trier knows that the school’s student government body is called Student Alliance, but if we mentioned “Student Alliance” to someone from another high school, odds are they might think it’s a group of superheroes.

We’re kidding of course, but there seems to be a general perception that SA doesn’t do anything valuable. While we do not intend to assert SA is characterized by a lack of action, it doesn’t change the fact that a certain sentiment exists (see Lagniappe’s jab at SA in this year’s college admissions skit).

The truth of the matter is that, although the name “Student Alliance” may be a little ambiguous, SA is an instrumental part of this school. This year’s ETC day is no small feat of coordination and organization, and other accomplishments from the past year include getting more bike racks and raising funds for the annual SA sponsored alternative spring break trip.

Still, for the past two years, SA has also been responsible for things that seem like routine school maintenance: repairing clocks, replacing American flags and adding more recycling bins in the halls. If SA has any wisp of a reputation among students for not getting big projects done, it doesn’t help if they’re only known for putting toilet paper in the bathrooms.

Of course, it’s not all the fault of SA if they don’t pass world-changing projects each year. It seems there is also hold up on the part of the administration, board members and other faculty. On Student Alliance’s official forum accomplishment sheet, it lists seven different ideas named as “Not Possible”. Although students might appreciate some of the ideas, like more outdoor seating at the Winnetka campus, SA President Jeff Salvadore says most of these suggestions are deemed “impossible” by adults. Bureaucracy is inevitable at a school of 4,000 students, two principals, and four superintendents, but perhaps the administration should give SA a bit more leeway in terms of how much the students can do.

On one hand, SA can’t do anything if the general student population doesn’t bring ideas for change to the table. From our experience, not many students in our advisories attend Student Alliance’s forums to suggest ideas, yet the sentiment that SA doesn’t do much seems to persist.

And that raises the question of whether or not New Trier truly has that much within the school to change. Of course there is probably plenty to be done, as the 43-suggestion-long SA accomplishments and ideas document points out. And maybe students will start talking more about Student Alliance if big, tangible things get done, like this year’s ETC Day.

It’s difficult at such a large institution to effectively bridge the gap between student and administrator, and things have improved. During Principal Tim Dohrer’s time as principal of Winnetka, the school condensed the number of student government-type organizations from five to one (Student Alliance), and this cleaned up what now defines New Trier student government. Now, it’s up to Student Alliance to recruit suggestions a bit more vigorously so that students know they have a voice. Then the onus is the students to ask for change where they see fit, and the administration to be more accommodating with what propositions are ultimately passed. The only way for SA’s perceived aloofness to transform into tangible change is through the students working with their elected officers, and the elected officers with the administrators. If there is anything to change at New Trier (which surely there is) everyone has to be on the same page. Otherwise, student government will continue to put toilet paper in the bathrooms: something that should already be happening in the first place.

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