Written by Helen Nguyen, Assistant Business Manager
Earlier this January, Student Activities Director Lisa Hall announced the Fall Student Senate results in a Schoology post. “As part of an Student Executive Council (SEC) goal to increase transparency with the student body, we are releasing our analysis and plan of action obtained from our most recent student senate,” the post read. Details of the Senate were explained in the PDF, with all comments in the document recorded anonymously during the session.
Student Body President senior Isabelle Blanchard recalled that in past years SEC has struggled with transparency and this year members focused on improving communication between students. “Last year, with a lot of the changes that were being made, people felt like their voices weren’t heard,” Blanchard said. “We wanted to make sure that they didn’t feel that way for all the SEC decisions.”
The SEC held its Fall Student Senate during Flex Time in November to receive feedback from the student body on a range of topics, including communication, cheating and academic competition. The 40 students who participated were nominated by teachers or randomly selected; their responses were recorded anonymously to be used and analyzed by SEC, in hopes of creating change.
The first Student Senate was started two years ago, and has continued yearly since. Blanchard believes the Senate is a chance for students to give SEC their feedback and opinions on what they find important. “The purpose of the Senate is to connect with the student body more,” Blanchard said. “I think a lot of the times we make choices for the student body, but honestly not the whole student body is on SEC so it’s hard for us to communicate.” Blanchard noticed that having a place for students to talk to SEC face- to-face was very helpful, and says it is a strong step towards increasing communication and transparency between SEC and the student population.
Hall says the student body has given feedback questioning the lack of transparency, and SEC is intent on resolving the problem. “One of the things SEC has heard loud and clear from the student body is that, ‘We are always getting surveyed and we’re always participating in focus group, but we don’t very often hear what the results of those compiled pieces of information are, nor are we told how that information is going to be used,’” Hall said. “The SEC was really interested in making sure that happened with anything that we were going to do—this was a first step towards that kind of transparency.”
Hall hopes students are aware that SEC is actively working on improving and resolving student issues. “Every- body on SEC is a part of a committee set up for each of the main things that were brought up,” Hall said. “Our hope is to actually take action on that and make some changes to what we have impact over—whether it’s talking to the counselors, or whether it’s the way we do business and try and change student events.”
According to Hall, this first step towards greater transparency is crucial. “I think that you can’t ever have enough transparency,” she said. “The number one thing that we hear all the time is, ‘Communication wasn’t good.’” Because today’s communication avenues have become vast and numerous, Hall says it is always good to check in with the student population to find out what the most effective communication methods are. “It’s always about trying to improve our communication by keep people informed,” Hall said.
Junior Leila Tuma, who participated in the Senate, noted that it was a great opportunity for students to express their opinions about different topics to Gunn leadership. She believes the discussion opened up new topics that the community often doesn’t address. In addition to opening more doors in the light of advancement in the Gunn community, the discussion has created a more open environment—something that is beneficial to the progress Gunn is heading towards. “I think people want decisions and changes to be made in the open and for it not to seem like things are being hidden from the public,” Tuma said. “There is nothing to be secretive about here, and welcoming and sharing ideas is important in improving the community.”
According to Blanchard, SEC hopes to make a lot of small changes towards increased transparency and wellness in the future. The debut of the suggestion boxes around campus is an example of one of the many changes SEC has in store. She believes all the changes SEC is working on will have an impact on everyone. “They’ll all do their own things equally, but just having more Senates is something that could be really impactful,” Blanchard said. “We can then make more changes based on those and I think that will be really helpful.”
Blanchard hopes the changes will help increase dialogue between students and SEC and make people feel more heard. She says the feedback from the Senate showed engagement and SEC was pleased that people had a lot to say. “We’re hoping they know that we’re actually listening to them, and care about what they’re saying and their opinions,” Blanchard said. “There’s a lot of changes that we’re hoping to make to the atmosphere of Gunn and certain small details, like how the counseling system works and schedules.”
This year, SEC is striving towards creating more touch points with the student body. “SEC recognizes that they can be considered sort of an aloof group, and they want to cut that down a little bit and make sure that people feel they’re being heard, or at least know where to go if they want to share some information or ask questions,” Hall said. She stated that SEC anticipates more improvement and hopes to add similar events that target different groups of people on campus.
SEC has scheduled Student Senate to occur every semester. In addition, the new Flex Time will provide time to hold informal Senates. Students will be able to go in during Flex Time and give SEC feedback concerning different topics. “It will be similar to how the school board runs, and how you can go in and just speak,” Blanchard said. “We won’t respond, but we’ll take in feedback.”