Concord Academy is distinct from other academic environments for many reasons— most notable among these differences is the comfort with which we, as a community, engage with one another. It’s an exceptional level of comfort that manifests as an undertone of casualness that permeates all aspects of CA, whether that be attire or the use of first names for faculty. The reverse of this casual state of learning is that we, as a community, often slip into an unregimentedness that's not inherently unproductive, yet poses additional challenges. When it comes to the peer-elected student Council, this casual tone holds especially true, and detrimentally so.

Composed of Dean of Students Grant Hightower P’26 and twenty-five students spanning all four grades, Council convenes weekly for one hour on Tuesday nights. Yet, like most goings-on in Council, these facts remain inconsistent: engagement hovers steadily in the teens, while some weeks council is a mere 15 minutes and others canceled altogether, which has occurred multiple times over this academic year. When meetings do occur, discussion centers around all-school events such as dances and community weekend programming—often conversations that yield little progress beyond decisions already made by the two twelfth-grade Entertainment Representatives and the Student Life Office. Intermittently, meetings cover broader and more pressing topics, with decisions that benefit from the input of student voice, such as schedule changes, exam schedules, or the altered fitness center hours. In spite of the importance of these decisions to the student body, and therefore the importance of student voice when making these decisions, we still make little progress; for the most part, not because we, the students of Council, aren’t listened to, but rather because we are so disinterested in listening to one another.

By no means does this failure fall on Student Head of School Jessie Ma ’24 nor Student Vice Head of School Kate Sahin ’24. Council’s unproductiveness has been problematic for years prior to their leadership, an indication that the issues of unproductivity and inefficiency stem systemically. Reinforcing the notion that the problems of Council do not fall on the individual, Council Chair and Dean of Students Grant Hightower commented, “That [the lack of seriousness at Council] could be because of the personality type of certain leaders, but I’d say it’s more about the function of Council. The topics covered in my two years have been more about logistics to specific school functions and less about programmatic or ideological changes in the community. I imagine some roles may feel that all they are there for is to be present.” Notably, Council lacks procedure of any standardized sort, a common anchor among Councils and boards. The lack of systemization extends itself to excessive, unbalanced, and redundant use of air time, all contributing to the wasting of precious minutes of our mere one hour per week. When we can’t even manage to have a fruitful conversation discussing little event details it’s hardly surprising that more personal, and therefore more relevant, topics are nearly a lost cause.

Frankly though, no matter how perfect a system, a Council that is nearly a sixteenth of CA’s student body is simply too big to function effectively. Having served as a Ninth Grade Class Representative previously, I’m left wondering why two ninth graders need to attend Council? This year, as an Environmental Representative and therefore member of Council I have not offered an opinion nor engaged in a vote pertaining, even remotely, to school sustainability concerns; why am I or any of the three other Environmental Representatives at Council? Grant Hightower, Dean of Students, addressed the size of Council, writing in an interview conducted via email, “Limiting student leadership roles and enhancing the scope of remaining positions can refocus the nature of student leadership on campus. I imagine it would weed out students simply looking to bolster their college applications and attract a more focused group if the objectives and outcomes for certain roles are more clearly defined.” CA’s Student Council is simply too large to operate with impact, and it shows.

The efficacy of Council is cyclically diminishing as Council positions are perpetually perceived to be a less than serious commitment. When there's no consequence to not showing up and engaging in every meeting, many Council members’ choice to disengage is an unsurprising one. There is no reinforced expectation of engagement and there are so many voices present at Council meetings that one’s own attendance can at times, feel frivolous. Should the goal of CA’s Student Council truly be efficient and productive decision-making and consideration, its structure needs to be overhauled and the excessive leadership roles pared down.