By Tamar Honig
As an integral component of many students’ high school careers, clubs offer invaluable opportunities to explore one’s interests or develop new passions. With this in mind, it follows that club officers, those leading the meetings that students devote their time to attend, should be carefully selected and well-deserving of their positions. And oftentimes, they are. However, other times, when officers are elected more arbitrarily and with less forethought, students not landed in their desired position may find themselves questioning the election process and deeming it unfair and inherently flawed. Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, one thing that is clear is that across the broad range of clubs offered at BHS, there is an equally broad range of methods used to choose or elect the officers.
Some clubs are quite lenient and laidback in their officer election rituals. Finance club, one of the newest additions to the after-school club scene at BHS, is one such club, states member Sydney Hoff. According to Sydney, at the club’s first meeting when only she and fellow member Wendy Willner showed up, they informed teacher supervisor Mrs. Murphy and club president Joseph Pennacchio of their intent to hold some sort of position. At the next meeting, this wish was granted when Sydney and Wendy raised their hands first when Joseph asked who was interested in positions. Sydney describes herself as quite satisfied with the system, but admits that it “isn’t particularly organized” and is “probably unfair for other people who didn’t raise their hands first.” However, there is still a sufficient sense of democratic fairness in that all club members had to consent to Sydney and Wendy’s election as officers.
A similar process was used in the selection of officers for the National Art Honor Society. Two seniors each sought the presidency. Teacher supervisor Ms. Ritacco, deeming both students worthy and qualified for the position, chose the pair as co-presidents. This decision was made binding by unanimous agreement in the art room among those present at the meeting. In order to allow as many students as possible the opportunity to hold officer positions, two juniors were given the jobs of secretary and treasurer, and there was even a new position created – exhibitionist/public relations officer.
On the other hand, some clubs employ more rigorous officer election procedures than others, and many students are in favor of this less easygoing attitude. BHS graduate Talia Marcus shares her belief that it is better for the teacher advisor to be involved to some extent in the elections in order to ensure that all officers are well-qualified. For example, candidates for officer positions in newspaper club are required to write a short piece for Mrs. Fishman, who then appoints students. For the BHS literary magazine club, Briars & Ivy, the former editors in chief (Talia Marcus and Victoria Copans) are generally selected by the advisors. Talia also proposes that students seeking officer roles should have “fulfilled certain preset requirements” (such as attendance at a certain minimum number of meetings) and “shown involvement in and dedication to the club.” Upon meeting these criteria, candidates can be approved by the teacher advisor and run in the election. Furthermore, Talia articulates the benefits of having a minimum requirement for how many meetings voters for club officers have attended, to avoid kids simply coming in once to cast their vote on election day.
Graduate Jenny Yang holds an opinion similar to Talia’s on the matter. She expresses her belief that “there should be more criteria to being chosen as an officer,” suggesting requirements such as having attended a certain number of meetings, having helped out with the club, and having had the teacher provide his or her input. In general, however, Jenny is quite content with the officers chosen for her clubs, adding her thought that in Briarcliff, it’s easier than in some other places to obtain positions, because of the relatively small number of students and relatively large number of positions available. In multicultural club, for example, more than half the members are officers. While some may consider this unfair and inefficient, others view it as a way of providing an opportunity to as many students who desire a leadership role as possible.
The question that remains in the end is: Are improvements in the club officer election processes needed? And if so, how can the system be improved? Talia puts forth the idea that Briarcliff adopt a system similar to that found in universities, and develop a written code of rules for each club that includes guidelines and regulations for officer election. She plans to write these codes for the clubs in which she is involved, and suggests that if they prove effective, other clubs do the same.