Typical Functions of Student Governing Bodies
- Represent, Advocate for Student Body
- Regulate and Charter Student Organizations
- Sponsor and Manage Student Events
- Lobby Legal Issues
Student government – what are its key functions in collegiate life today? The loose concept of student-based governance groups has been around for quite some time. Today, however, these governing bodies are common, organized, and typically serve a set of universal functions while hard at work governing in educational institutions all across the country. While there is some variation from one body to the next, almost all revolve around these five main tenets.
1. Represent, Advocate for Student Body
Representation of the student is possibly chief among the functional concerns of student governing bodies. Many of these bodies are modeled after the American governing system, utilizing three branches, voting systems, and more. Through this structure, an organized body emerges and is able to thus advocate for student interests in any relevant venue or issue. The ability to represent effectively, however, depends largely on resources, body size, member participation, and school cooperation.
2. Regulate and Charter Student Organizations
Student clubs and organizations account for a substantial portion of all activities that take place on and around many campuses. These organizations may involve education directly, or they may branch out into extracurricular interests and hobbies. In many cases, these organizations fall under the governance of the central student government body. By being managed via the student government body, the organization is then usually managed in terms of finances, membership, events, and nearly all other major areas of operation.
3. Sponsor and Manage Student Events
While student governing bodies manage a large number of official organizations such as discussed above, they also help to manage and facilitate non-organizational student events. Examples of such events include things like voter registration events, seminars promoting health and awareness of social issues, events benefiting certain minority or disability groups, tutor and mentor meetups, social gatherings, holiday events, and much more. Depending on the physical proximity and general relation to the school itself, permissions still may need to be obtained therein for such events.
4. Lobby Legal Issues
As elaborated on to an extent above, advocacy is a considerable part of the student government's role. Part of this advocacy can sometimes actually translate to legal action and lobbying measures. If a student body feels united enough and strong enough about a legal issue, potential or already in place, it can and often will take to legal activism in every possible respect. For those interested in further reading on this area, some great examples of such legal advocacy by student governing bodies can be found commonly covered throughout national and local news headlines like:
- "Student leaders veto vote to ban US flag from UC Irvine's lobby"
- "Student government and neighborhood association lobbies for housing affordability in Marcy-Holmes"
- "UCLA Student Body Votes to Divest From Turkey"
- "Student government votes to oppose state Senate "campus carry" proposal"
Finally, effective self-regulation is yet another keystone principle of the typical student government. By maintaining efficacy and integrity in self-regulation, more students are attracted to the cause, the body gains leverage, the body gains security and longevity, and more. This is all managed through the use of the three-branch system – executive, legislative, and judicial. Each branch and member of the body shares checks and balances power as well as vulnerability. Voting and consensus thus play a substantial part here.
Student governing bodies can be a great introduction to law and society as well as a powerful area of association and advocacy for countless students. These are the basics of student governments today. To learn more about student government and its various forms and ways, the American Student Government Association is an excellent resource with which to inquire further.