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Finding Direction for Student Voice

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Samar Mann

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March 5, 2018

I know many Seniors, myself included, have recently felt frustration with aspects of our Xavier community dealing with student voice. In the spirit of reconciliation and seeking a way for student voice to be more apparent in the decision making process, I’d like to provide some context and offer a potential solution so that student voice has a seat at the decision making table.

I saw a lack of acknowledgment of student voice first during Sophomore year when the couches were taken away from the Rover (the old Commons). We were told the Commons needed to look more professional to visitors. Students petitioned to bring the couches back and nothing happened. In retrospect, we see the plan that was obviously in place at the time, and the Student Commons has a new location. My question is, perhaps this needed to be communicated more effectively. Perhaps addressed specifically in a Wednesday assembly. Partnering with students in the design of the new space would have been an awesome experience!

I saw this again with the jet pants. Many students petitioned against the ban on the Lululemon and Lululemon-style jet pants. The Senior who created the petition was approached by a member of the administration and told to discontinue the petition. The pants petition remains at her house. Why is student voice being pushed to the curb? When will our voices be respected and heard? If there is an explanation for these decisions then why doesn’t the administration, at the very least, share why decisions are being made? Again, the dress code is an issue that affects us all. Partnering with students to address the dress code might bring more students into compliance with the dress code. We understand the need for modesty and removing cultural status symbols that widen the gap between those with means and those with more limited means. At the same time, clarification can be made. For example, why are loose-fitting pants that comply with our school colors prohibited? As a female Xavier student, I was confused with the rule. I know how hard it is to find appropriate school shorts, and I am more than familiar with the struggle to find comfortable and warm clothing to wear at school. I believe that there should have been more communication and the petition could have at least been seen. Students should have been able to express their concerns.

These examples may seem trivial. I am resisting discussion regarding more recent events. Be that as it may, I feel those recent events made more apparent the need to create a venue for student voice. Communication is the best way to navigate the difficulties encountered. The fact is as seniors, many of us are able to drive and vote. We are becoming adults and need to be allowed tangible ways for our voices to be heard. Our opinions should not be dismissed; our voices should be cultivated. We are committed to our right to express ourselves. We commit ourselves to what we believe to be just because, at the end of the day, decisions made in a process of which we are unaware, impact us – the students. We have every right to answers, clarification, and voice regarding decisions for which we will feel the effects.

Many Jesuit schools around the country have recognized the importance of student voice and have created advisory councils to work with the administration on possible policies and changes to existing policies. As an example: De Smet’s student government mission states:

De Smet Jesuit Student Government is an innovative and open-minded leadership team that strives to cultivate the best De Smet Jesuit through:

  • 1. ministering to and guiding our fellow students
  • 2. fostering communication between the students, staff, and administration,
  • 3. increasing and modeling school pride, enthusiasm, and involvement

Through these goals, we will pave a positive and transformative future for the student body of De Smet Jesuit High School.

So, I propose a solution for student voice at Xavier. Would it be possible to convene a committee or advisory council with representatives from each class, teachers, and administration? Could a committee /council like this hear student petitions, proposals, and/or actions and provide a consensus about said petitions, proposals, and/or actions? Would the inclusion of a system like this enhance Xavier students ability to be more fully engaged in what it means to be Men and Women With and For Others? I believe it would. I’d like to see this idea or something like it become a reality for our campus.

Xavier Seniors care because Xavier is our family. It is our home. Enduring relationships have been made here. We want to express the depth of care and concern for our home and family. We believe that students who have learned to love and who have spent years in and around Xavier will be able to make our home better if given the chance.

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