By Rachel Schwartz
This year, almost twice as many girls as boys ran for Junior Prefect. This was not a surprise to me, as this gap in numbers has occurred every year since seventh grade. Yet once again, the inequality angered me. I don’t mean to say that more boys or that fewer girls should run. I am just continually frustrated that I must choose two boys and two girls to represent me.
I do not care about the gender of my student representative, yet I am forced to vote in segregated elections. I prefer to focus on attributes that will make candidates better liaisons between students and administration, and impartial judges on the honor board.
Perhaps the gender separation was originally instituted to help girls enter student government when Harvard and Westlake merged. But now, instead of enforcing equality, the system does the opposite. Male candidates have almost twice the chance of being elected as girls do, independent of who is more qualified or zealous. I wouldn’t feel oppressed if only boys were elected as long as they were truly representing my interests. A prefect who is the same gender as his or her constituents does not necessarily understand them better.
Times have changed. The increasing interest among girls in student politics should be taken into account in our school election system. Girls no longer need separate election slots to ensure they have equal chances in a system that is still assumed to be male-dominated. Harvard-Westlake prides itself on its unique student government system. However, I would argue that some aspects of the structure are antiquated and even sexist.
The current student government
structure assumes that girls are needed to represent girls and boys to represent boys. I believe that this is false. Today we need a system that begins based on the belief that the student body is responsible enough to look beyond gender when voting.
There is no denying that being a prefect is a prestigious position.. Although we would like to think that students who run are motivated solely by their sincere wish to give back to the community and help their fellow classmates, let’s be realistic. I doubt that the prestige, popularity and leadership skills that the position indicates when added to a college transcript are not considered by each candidate when they consider taking on the extra workload that a prefect position requires.
The divided election system gives boys a much greater chance of gaining this advantage when applying for college, since in general boys have less competition in elections.
I hope that one of my Junior Prefects, whether male or female, will help make my voice heard and restructure elections in a way that will truly account for the equality between men and women at this school, recognizing that neither gender needs an advantage. We should be allowed to elect prefects based on merit alone.