Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ASF: A Place we can call School

Following is the extended article written about school spirit for the 'Americano' school paper. While the article does pass a lot of blame on to the school administration, take a moment to ponder the question "what can STUDENTS do to make ASF feel more like a community?" Please share your thoughts in the comments!

There will always be a distance between a school’s administration and students, as there should be between any citizens and their governing powers. At ASF however, the distance between students and decision-makers rather than being ‘reach across the aisle’ is more like a no-man’s-land reminiscent of the First World War. This creates some pretty obvious issues when it comes to creating mutual trust between students and administrators. More specifically, it drastically harms ASF’s ability to foment a sense of community. If anything, the school’s sense of community has been described by students as ‘non-existent,’ and ‘riddled with apathy.’ The question then arises; how do we change this?

While generating a sense of community is no easy feat, school administration should strive to take the first steps. The first way it can do so is by generating legitimacy with the student body (students have described the administration as “willfully ignorant of student wants and needs.”) While the claim may be overly critical of the administration, it makes a good point; there is a clear disconnect between student needs and administrative action. One only needs to go so far as to look at student government at ASF to understand why students feel they don’t have a say in what decisions are being made. Many ex-officials (who will remain anonymous) have described their jobs on the Student council as “the student activity planning committee.” It should be a lot more than that. Student leaders should be the ones expressing the interests of the student body to administration, not simply planning events with abysmal attendance records like El Grito and the Lock-in. The main problem as one senior puts it is that “the administration holds very little legitimacy with the student body because the opportunities to express opinions that will be taken seriously are few and far between, instead of listening to students and responding to the points and criticisms made, the school relies on passive-aggressive political correctness. [And] unfortunately, students see through that empty rhetoric.” So, the legitimacy of the administration is lost because they are not giving students reasons to care. What is worse is that the reasons given seem hollow and disconnected from the reality of student sentiment. The student went on to talk about the “community building sessions” in advisory which are perhaps the “epitome of empty political correctness.”This is because although they may help build community, people don’t care when there is no incentive to be united.

One of the more controversial decisions made by the school was in 2009 when the school decided to stop allowing students to leave campus after school to buy from vendors outside and then come back to campus for their after-school activities. This action was warranted by alleged security concerns for students who leave campus. It may seem like negligible issue, but it showcases the type of hollow excuses that students see through. If safety were really the issue at hand here, then the administration just wouldn’t let people out of the gates, period. Furthermore, if they are really worried about the safety of students, they would open at least some parking to students instead of forcing kids to park their cars in the back streets behind the school where --on more than one occasion-- kids have been robbed. If safety were really the issue when considering if high schoolers can leave and return to campus, then the administration should be limiting a lot of other things that they do not. The more worrisome idea is what we can logically conclude when we consider that safety is not the issue at hand here. This is where our pocket-books get involved.

The school picks its food provider for the cafeteria by having companies place bids and presenting a plan to show how their company will be more competitive than the others. The problem arises after the contract is given. After signing a contract with the school, whatever service provider that proposed the most competitive plan is given an exclusivity contract. They are to be the only official food vendors on campus. This contract opens the ASF campus-goers (especially those who cannot leave campus) to a number of abuses from the cafeteria. Namely, the cafeteria can name their price, and as long as it is not so ridiculous that people stop buying food, they can get away with it. They are guaranteed a monopoly on food available on campus by contract. This exclusivity contract also means that the company awarded the bid gets exclusive access to ASF campus clientele, meaning that when students used to leave campus to buy food and come back, they escape the agreement between the company and the school. This limitation on leaving campus to buy food and returning for an afterschool activity goes far beyond the superficial whining that most students do. It completely assures that ASF students cannot go anywhere but the cafeteria that appears to be steadily raising the costs of food over time. As long as the doors to the outside are closed, students are vulnerable to price abuse from the cafeteria. The reason for this is because as long as the vendors outside the school are taken out of the equation, the cafeteria is invulnerable to any price competition they create.

The current state of affairs is as follows: students feel abused by the administration, but find futility in attempting to fight the decisions because they feel like they are getting nowhere. In return the administration makes decisions that often marginalize the student body and receive little to no feedback from the people these decisions affect. The way to change this is pretty obvious; school administrators have to give students more power and promote school traditions, not strike them down. Other than striking down the tradition of buying food from outside vendors, there is the prohibition of Senior Prank Day. This particular issue is where the student body gets involved. The reason Senior Prank Day was banned was because senior pranks began going further than just being a fun prank on the student body. The pranks became disgusting, hurtful, and strayed far from the harmless fun a prank strives to achieve. Pranks like throwing animal intestines, blood, and feces are the kind of pranks that lead to the ban of Senior Prank Day. The student body should be planning thoughtful, light hearted and amusing pranks. This goes to prove that the burden is not completely on the administration to create community and generate legitimacy in the student body. Students have the responsibility to make themselves heard and to act in a way that --while it may not be completely approved by the administration-- respectfully proves a point. The student body polarizing itself against the administration achieves nothing, and neither does the administration gain anything by ignoring pleas from the students.

ASF wants to generate conscientious, risk-taking, and globally-aware citizens, and yet they refuse to empower their student body. If ASF administrators truly want to live up to the mission statement of their institution, they should be demanding that students take things into their own hands. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality that governs the student body should be what the administration should be fighting. Not using it to take advantage of students who are complacent with things that are just good enough to be okay. Give students reasons to care, and the rest will come naturally. If anything, ASF would at least increase attendance to events like football games and student run music/open mic festivals. However, so long as the administration continues to marginalise student opinion, students will remain apathetic. Students on the other hand, should accept nothing less than an administration that vehemently supports and protects student interests, activities and traditions (within reason, of course). Removing polarizations between school administration and the student body is the best way for the ASF community to come about. With any luck, it could make school a nice place to be.

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