Take Student Government Elections Seriously

It’s time for students at Stuyvesant to take government elections seriously and prioritize policy and candidates who demonstrate real dedication in order to successfully foster a school community and effectively prepare students for the future.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In the bustling halls of Stuyvesant High School, walls are adorned with posters of competing tickets while whispers of votes and secret ballot bribes take place in hushed corners—this is the election season, when pairs of candidates campaign in an attempt to best represent their respective grades. However, as the air fills with promises of reform and campaigns for change, it becomes evident that many students in the school regard caucus elections as a way to support their friends, or they have no regard for elections whatsoever. By considering elections to be a popularity contest or entirely disregarding them, students miss out on the valuable opportunities that the election season has to offer. 

Student government leaders are democratically elected representatives of the student body, have a responsibility to foster effective communication, and represent their community. During Stuyvesant’s student government elections, each campaign is responsible for proposing policies that improve student life. They create policies on relevant aspects for that grade, including college readiness and mental health awareness. They also propose their own events such as the Junior Caucus’s slime event and the Sophomore Caucus’s trivia night to foster school spirit. Therefore, to ensure a fluid and successful presidency that implements the interests of their respective grade, both candidates and voters need to genuinely engage with the community and carefully consider their votes throughout the election process. 

Currently, many candidates aren’t taking elections seriously, further convincing voters to treat elections as a joke. In the 2024-2025 Junior Caucus elections, a ticket centered its platform around bananas. They wore banana costumes during the debates, appropriated policies from another ticket, and focused their platform on distributing bananas. Tickets such as the banana campaign simply run as a joke and leave halfway through interviews and debates, allowing other students to take elections lightly. This is mostly because of the expected notion that those who win caucus presidents in freshman year will keep their positions, which discourages other tickets from promoting their platforms. As a result, many students miss out on the foundations that student government elections can build, regardless of who wins. Students who run for government can learn how to manage interpersonal relationships, best communicate the desires of students, and gain hands-on experience in developing skills such as outreach, IT, planning events, and more. By engaging in debates and representing the school, student government leaders learn about the importance of well-informed decision making and being accountable for their choices.

While it may seem as if student government yields no power, in general, 66 percent of student government presidents felt they had a say in decisions and 75 percent had an opportunity to voice concerns and advocate for the student body. While school administrators have ultimate authority, student leaders can unearth areas of change that the student body demands. For example, the 2023-2024 president of the Student Union (SU) introduced tampons and pad boxes to the girls’ bathrooms. Whether these demands are as simple as adding cheaper snack vending machines or demanding change against inequitable policies, student government leaders have the opportunity to learn how to represent areas of change in schools. 

For those who are not running for student government, participating in elections is still important because it allows all students to practice being active citizens in their local communities. Student government elections provide powerful platforms for promoting youth voting, thus empowering a generation to be educated and politically engaged citizens. Although in 2022, Generation Z voted at a higher rate than previously, younger people are still voting at much lower rates than older Americans. In addition, only 40 percent of youth feel qualified to participate in politics. Stuyvesant’s elections help increase these numbers by providing young people with information and firsthand experience in elections and politics. Young people who experience high-quality civic education of any form are more likely to vote, form political opinions, and know how to campaign. Overall, student government elections allow students to start young, allowing them to develop a sense of civic responsibility. 

Elections also allow students to develop their own informed opinions—a skill set that is not only vital to politics but in any aspect of life. Forming one’s own political opinions is especially important in today’s polarized society where party loyalty often takes precedence over individual belief. Even when the policies of a political candidate do not reflect the ideals of the individual or democracy, only 3.5 percent of Americans would vote against that particular member of their party. This loyalty to a particular political party has roots in family history, racial and social identity, and religion. In Stuyvesant’s student government elections, friendships—similar to party loyalty—often trump detailed and thorough campaigns. Stuyvesant student government candidates strategically choose campaign managers to secure friend group votes because they know that most students ignore both policy documents and The Spectator’s endorsements. Now, in both real-world politics and student government, voters seek a party win over policy, hindering the positive impacts of participating in student government.

Stuyvesant is a school where students are encouraged to vote yearly in order to elect new representatives, both for SU and caucus presidents. However, looking back at Stuyvesant’s student voting history, the evidence of voter apathy is alarming, as less than half of eligible student voters voted in the 2024 SU elections. Although this is an immense increase from the 17.5 percent voter turnout in 2023, the voter turnout for both SU and caucus elections rarely surpasses the 50 percent mark. This result of voter apathy also stems from the fact that some students believe that those who had served in government positions in their freshmen years will automatically be elected again, even though this is simply untrue. Whether it’s apathetic or so-called “friendship votes,” Stuyvesant students don’t have the opportunity to form their own opinions in regards to improving their experiences at school. 

Student government elections have turned from a democratic opportunity to a rat race for fame and leadership, leading to gossip and damaged friendships. This perceived popularity contest doesn’t just impact voters but also candidates, who no longer focus on developing policies and turn to simply vying for votes through friendships and promises. Despite the chaos of elections, it’s vital to remember that the predominant purpose of student government is to empower students and contribute to the community. At the end of the day, competent and dedicated caucuses and SU presidents are far more beneficial to the growth of the school and student body. 

Taking upcoming caucus and SU elections seriously is imperative to foster a closer Stuyvesant community. Before voting, voters should read through the policy documents since it represents the extent of a candidate’s commitment and effort. When evaluating these platforms, voters should ask themselves whether they agree with the policies and if the ticket has thoughtfully planned out its goals to be feasible and successful. Furthermore, students should prioritize substance over style and the SU should be even more transparent with the idea of a fair election, incentivizing non-returning caucus members to put effort and hope into their platforms and motivating students to vote. From athletes and math team kids to the theater community and journalists, all students deserve a voice and a chance to be involved. 

Students, the truth is that your friends are not always the best candidates and you are not obligated to vote for them. Just as senators and congressmen are representatives of real people with genuine concerns, school government leaders are representatives of students with equally valid concerns and desires. Therefore, considerate engagement in student government has long-lasting impacts on the school and an individual’s role as an active citizen in society.  

Despite the funny Instagram reels and candy bribes, I voted for the people who would best support my junior year experience at Stuyvesant. These elections will have an impact on my experience as a part of the student body and as an American citizen with a responsibility to vote. I am taking these elections seriously, and so should you.