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Government Reform: A Necessary Undertaking
March 1, 2022
Daniel Hong, Grade 12

Burnaby North’s Student Government is an elected student body that seeks to enhance student life for everyone. Highly revered for its creativity and innovation through times of strife and triumph, many students do not see the inner workings which turn events into success. From my observations over two years, the Student Government system needs a facelift to better deal with evolving school culture. It is in the best interest of the Student Government, and the school, to adapt to long-overdue changes.

The last time Student Government passed major positional changes was more than five years ago. To put this into context, the Grade 12s were finishing up elementary school, and the Grade 8s were turning six years old. Such a long period has shown the strength and resolve our institution has endured, but also the cracks that have emerged. Students question the purpose of some positions in Government, since the students who enacted such changes no longer attend our school. The Honorary member position is a good paradigm. Today, the position is filled by persons who were not elected in the general election. They are, in popular opinion, provided this job as consolement for their effort and passion during campaign week. However, the position’s primary purpose shall be “used to fill in Student Government knowledge,” as one alumni put it. That is, if a significant proportion of newly-elected members have never painted a banner or fundraised (critical skills of Government), school administration may look at unsuccessful candidates and select ones who may fill such gaps in the body of knowledge. Given that many students believe the first line of reasoning, it is understandable why some may want to eliminate Honoraries. Change is necessary, but only minor modifications are required to make it an equitable system. Clearer position definitions, coupled with a willingness from Government members to promote a new system are the school’s only hopes of reforming the system.

The other option is to go nuclear. While surface-level name changes appease many, blowing up our current system and starting fresh may also be viable. This option garners the highest support among teachers and students who believe that the current system is too hierarchical. They claim it is unfair for students who have historically been marginalized. Many schools follow a different structure for their governing body, and it is worthwhile to examine each as a case study. Take Burnaby Mountain Secondary as an example. The Mountain model, as I will call it, elects co-presidents, and relatively proportionate numbers of students from each grade to their Council. This is achieved because the Mountain model does not place grade restrictions on positions and does not have term limits. If a similar system is implemented here, we would have four to five grade representatives from each grade, not just two to three. The benefits of a proposed hybrid model inspired by Mountain would make a more equitable and fair Student Government. At the very least, it would save face for Student Government by seeming equitable on paper. The real-world implications of such changes, however, are unknown due to Burnaby North’s unique qualities (i.e. its size) that differentiate itself from other schools.

Whether it be position name and definition changes or a complete system overhaul, Burnaby North’s Student Government system needs updating. So long as there exists the political will from Government members to achieve equality and fairness, it is doable. The future of our school and its students are at stake, and it is up to the incumbent Student Government to enact the wants of the people.