The difference between high school and college is dramatic, especially when you consider the possibilities available to members of student government. In my high school, we had a student government that considered legislation for the entire student body, and looked over the budget of the school district. We certainly had some input in the nature of our education, but our opinions were never truly considered by the administration, nor did we ever change the daily operations of our school.
At Oberlin, student governments have led the entire student body in productive dialogue with the administration. Student government members are considered equal members of the highest governance bodies at Oberlin. Students take active roles in all levels of the Oberlin administration, help determine the courses that are available for students to take, and help make hiring decisions for new faculty and administrative positions within the College.
This is not to say that Oberlin students are always satisfied with their Oberlin experience. Nor is it fair to say that the opinions of the student body are always widely appreciated by the College administration. Yet when students do feel like there is a significant problem with the operations of the College, our opinions are made known, and are considered carefully.
Some of the things that the Student Senate (Oberlin’s primary student governance body) is working to improve as I write this include students’ living experience on campus and student experiences with student health services. Working on these and other issues has taught me how to work with others who disagree with me, and confront issues which are largely created through a lack of finances. These experiences have certainly helped me appreciate the challenge of local, state, and federal governments when they work to get things done for their constituencies. I have also learned that one can effectively create real change as long as one has the nerve to challenge authority, and patience to find compromise on controversial issues.