The Changing Role of ASB

 

An ASB discussion during Advanced Leadership. Members of the student government are divided into committees each cycle where they focus on a specific upcoming event. Photo by Nathan Wilk.

Every year, Franklin’s Associated Student Body holds school-wide elections for their top positions, encouraging the greater population to cast their ballots. At preceding assemblies, candidates give short statements of their campaign goals, often emphasizing student voices, communication with administration, and the growth of school community.

However, for the average student, casting a vote comes with a lot of ignorance. The powers, roles, and operation of ASB positions and committees are seldom known and education is an arduous and multi-avenue process. “Communication… is really challenging in this building,” says Leadership Advisor Marc Appell. “Getting the word out to students—there’s no silver bullet.” Furthermore, the reputation of the organization is sullied by characterizations of the class as political, drama-filled, and cliquey. The rarely highlighted reality of ASB is that of a group of likeminded, mutually supportive individuals committed to creating an inclusive community at Franklin.

The student government is divided into a hierarchy of positions. On the top is ASB President Wren Helzer-Florer (12) followed by second in command Vice President William Hammond (12). Below them fall other Cabinet members, who are given titles—Secretary, Spirit Commissioner, District Liaison, Publicity Chair, Tech Coordinator—and corresponding duties. Popularly elected Class Presidents help lead a group of additional support staff and organize grade specific events.

Functionally, ASB is run by the Advanced Leadership class, where students are placed into different committees with specific focuses. They plan assemblies, school dances, extracurricular events, and even Franklin’s yearly canned food drive, all of which are led by senior members called Committee Heads. During class time, Appell and Helzer-Florer jump between these groups, providing advice, context, and communication.

Within discussion, the hierarchy melts away. Here, a Cabinet seat doesn’t guarantee authority, as any longtime veteran of the leadership program can be chosen as head. But even then, anyone is free to contribute. During a meeting about upcoming spirit days, Helzer-Florer, two non-Cabinet committee heads and a freshman bounced ideas off of each other. Above all else, ASB members treat each other like peers, mostly to their mutual benefit.

The reputation of ASB as socially divided isn’t unfounded, according to many of its members. Friend groups are polarizing, although several remark that conditions have improved this year and they hope for further change.

ASB’s socioeconomic and ethnic diversity is “good, but not good enough,” Appell says, citing a lack of outreach as a major cause. “The class is fairly diverse, but we’re not proportionally representing the student body yet.”

In the future, Appell hopes to expand the role of ASB as a legitimate source of representation. “The student government part is something that’s still a work in progress, [and] I don’t know if we’re at the point where we’re a functioning democratic representative body of the students,” he says. “[Franklin students] need to be bought into the system and feel that they have a place at the table and that their voices are important… and I think everyone recognizes that—Mr. Frazier recognizes that, teachers recognize that—but it’s an old institution that we’re working in, so it’s still gonna take some time.” In the past few years, important steps have been taken to work towards this goal.

Two years ago, Appell and Helzer-Florer developed the curriculum for an introductory class, which teaches different leadership styles and prepares students for Cabinet positions and beyond. “We want leadership to be more than community events. We also want [its members] to become leaders,” Helzer-Florer says. That same year, ASB started Student Senate, a monthly meeting of representatives who can vote on issues relevant to the Franklin body. It’s led by Senate Coordinator Jeremy London (12) and composed of the leaders of Franklin’s various clubs, drawing from their diverse cultural backgrounds and interests.

ASB also rediscovered and reinstated a Constitution created 12 years ago for use with Franklin Leadership. This document clearly outlines the duties of the student government and grants powers to the general population in checking their function. Article XIII, Section 3 details a process by which “[t]he Leadership class, the Activities Director, the student body, and/or the staff may impeach an ASB officer.” Under Article XIV, Section 2, any Franklin student is allowed to propose an amendment to the Constitution. If at least 30% of the total population supports it, then it will go to vote in Leadership and the Student Senate, where it will be ratified given a 2/3 majority from both houses.

Several factors limit the government from growing further. In addition to communication issues between ASB and the student body, Appell identifies the difficult process of influencing administration as a primary roadblock. “It’s so easy [for the school or district] to say no,” he says. Bureaucratic procedures require that every new event and decision comes with a lot of discussion and paperwork. A new ASB member cites this as a primary reason for joining the class, in hopes of pushing against it: “In high school, it’s really easy for schools to make students feel like they have a voice or vote, but control everything behind the scenes,” they say.

Overall, Appell is still proud of his class. “[ASB] come in and they want Franklin to be a better school, and they want it to be better for the students, and they’re generous… and they’re just a really awesome, well intentioned group. We’re all aware that we have a lot of work to do, and ways to improve… but they’re working hard.”

 

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