The Zoom Where It Happens

Grigory Menshikov `21 explores the challenges of Govs politics

Grigory Menshikov, Editor

The Governor’s community elected its current school leaders a little more than a month after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students hoped that the new team of student council members would deal with the crisis and maintain close virtual contact with the student body and faculty. The elected (or reelected) candidates entered their office with many expectations and hopes upon them. I decided to explore and write about Gov’s politics and see if these expectations are being met. 

School politics is different this year, beginning with the fact that the student council meetings now seem to happen behind closed doors. Like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Aaron Burr, most of Gov’s students do not have access to view any important decisions or make contributions. The “room where it happens” is shut. Students can only imagine how the student council meetings look and whether they even convene. One small difference between Burr and us is that the people of the 1800s deliberated in person. Nowadays, the Academy community leaders confer on Zoom. Nobody has ever gotten the student government meeting link, so “we just assume that it happens.” Curious and willing to share this information with my schoolmates, I decided to interview the Gov’s establishment, but out of nine representatives, only two responded. I was fortunate to converse with sophomore class President Isabelle Ferdinando and senior class Vice-President Chloe Therrien. Thus, I collected some upper- and underclassmen’s visions. We discussed the Academy’s electoral system, their thoughts on the year, the current situation, and their roles as student leaders. 

The statement that the Academy’s electoral system needs improvement will surprise few. Students give their candidates several points, from 1 to 3, thereby evaluating every nominee’s five leadership skills: Approachability, Ability to Inspire, Dependability, Initiative, and Integrity. Although the reasons behind such a design are clear (to filter the most decent candidates for a position), the very construction of voting with evaluation turns the elections into a popularity contest. While not in every grade, people complain about political machines. At Govs, a political machine is when the students unite in big groups, casting their votes en masse for the friendliest candidate. While Isabelle disagreed with me, stating that Gov’s electoral system is “fair and efficient,” Chloe confirmed that high school elections are always a popularity contest. It sucks, but there is remarkable nuance in the Gov’s current student government. Chloe: “All people who were elected this year are all capable of being in positions they are. There were no candidates I could not picture as [senior] class officers. Besides, I think all the people who were running were also competent, and I didn’t think that any of them would make a bad class officer.” The prevailing view is that popularity contests, intrigues, and political machinery override school policies’ quality. Nevertheless, this year’s leaders are promising. 

A challenging year is ahead of us. The student leaders, along with the school administration, are entrusted with great responsibility. Besides keeping the community together, they have to fulfill their commitments, realize positive changes, and implement the novel rules through personal examples. I took an interest in the projects that the student government is working on right now. Chloe has told me that this year, the student council prioritizes the senior class. She told me, “The seniors are missing out on so many things because of the pandemic and its strict orders. We are trying to get some way of bringing especially the senior class together right now. We are working on something that would bring everyone together. We want to have some fall field day, or a movie night, or just something that would bring everybody physically together.” Author’s note: we had the senior night some days ago. It was not fine due to cliques and the overall atmosphere of mild apathy. The night ended early. 

Isabelle shared that although the student representatives have many ideas, they did not have many opportunities to discuss them. The student council has managed to convene only once since the year started. My interviewees have noted that the student council is happy to listen to what students want to propose, stating that the student government is open to our contributions. Author’s note: as this article goes to press, an all-student email has been sent inviting everyone to a webinar-style Zoom meeting where pre-written questions will be answered.  

Isabelle’s slight vagueness ignites a thought about one significant disadvantage of the Gov’s political system. The underclass voices are often so silent that nobody can hear them. I wanted to talk to the third-term Junior Class President, Isabel Eldredge, about her accomplishments. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance. Chloe, a senior council member, says that underclass officers’ achievements do not seem apparent and explicit for two significant reasons. First, the student government directs much of its work into the projects passed on by the earlier years’ graduates. The council’s general task is to maintain the things that already exist instead of coming up with something novel. Second, although underclass members may have a lot to say, the seniors are the ones who usually constitute the core of the Academy policies and set the agenda. 

Isabelle and Chloe, both serving their first terms, have shared details about their work in the council. Isabelle is the class of 2023 President, and she described her occupations as follows:

So far, I have reached out to all the new sophomores and organized a Zoom call to check up on their school year. I also scheduled this meeting to get their feedback on what Govs can do to create a healthier community under the circumstances. The core of my occupation is to make sure everyone feels involved and connected. I want to hear my peers and other students’ ideas to voice their opinions at the student council meetings and push to make them happen.

Chloe, the senior VP, in turn, shared her perspective on the work in the council: 

Usually, people don’t know that much about what the vice-president does, especially at Govs. One barely gets it, and this year I’m about to figure it out myself. What I discovered is being a VP means a lot of support. So, whatever Erok or Bé needs me to do, even what Arlo needs me to do, I usually help with it. I helped to record many morning meeting skits and suggested the idea for the first one. Whenever I can give support, I give it; whatever I can do, I’m always ready to step in and engage. 

Speaking about engagement, I asked my interviewees about the necessity of involving more students in Academy politics. Both of them agree that more students need to partake in the school policy-making and management process. However, I was not lucky to hear many precise propositions. Isabelle expressed her sincere endorsement of the idea, noting that no students should be afraid to stand up and voice their concerns about the community. In her turn, Chloe promised to share the vision of publishing guest links to the council meetings with other representatives, thus allowing everyone to get involved. Chloe and Isabelle claim that the student government’s significant objective is to hear and employ more student ideas and opinions. Some meetings may focus on a particular student group, for example, newcomers or arts kids. The specialization will likely attract more public attention from the respective groups.

Today’s student leaders perfectly fit the description of the so-called “night-watchman state.” We neither hear nor see them nor observe the results of their labor, but know that they are “somewhere over here.” According to their words, they are busy, so busy they did not, in large part, even respond to my interview requests. They say they concentrate most of their attention on managing the already existing projects. It is good that the current council team is not authoritative, for there are not many people willing to sit an additional mandatory morning meeting. However, in this time of hardship, the school community needs leaders who are not absent or refrained but ready to mediate, represent, and increase the volume of student voices with dignity and passion. If you are having any worries regarding your life at school – do not hesitate to test our newly elected leaders. 

Academy President – Béjunior Fallon (
Academy Vice-President/Senior Class President – Erok Iyamu (
Junior Class President – Isabel Eldredge (
Sophomore Class President – Isabelle Ferdinando (
First-Year Class President – Jason Zhu (