Baltimore School for the Arts is one of the most exceptional atmospheres a student could grow in. The student body is thoroughly diverse, and everyone in attendance at the school is fully invested in their education; an attribute rarely found in any student body. BSA’s students are all artistic and expressive and that is how their voice is heard. If a person were to compare BSA’s student voice to that of any other school they would find that the student body at BSA is far more vocal than that of most other schools. When students have concerns, they are generally heard and addressed. However, some students believe that the solution to getting more of their concerns acknowledged would be to have a student government at the school. Student governments are generally implemented in schools using the template provided by the Student Government Association (SGA). There are a multitude of reasons that having a SGA at BSA would be an ineffective and terrible fit for the BSA community.
Inevitably, the student body will not be represented fairly. That isn’t necessarily because there is a lack of interest in student government but rather, as BSA American Government teacher, Christina Duncan-Evans, puts it, “Elections tend to be popularity contests, and I don’t know if there is a solution to that.” The students whose voices are heard the least are those who are not in the highest level classes at BSA. Duncan-Evans made the comment that, “Student government is sometimes a vehicle for your students who are ‘haves’ and not so much for students who are ‘have nots.’” Ifetayo Kitwala, an impressively involved student in the school system agreed, saying, “I feel like student government could end up exacerbating class differences.” An issue student government at BSA would face is that there isn’t an easy way to prevent exacerbation of those class differences. The initial founders of BSA’s student government would have to make it’s first priority attracting a diverse group of individuals.“Many people that don’t see themselves as potential candidates would be fantastic in such leadership positions,” commented Duncan-Evans. “It would be a matter of convincing them that they should run.”
Emeline Boehringer, junior visual artist, has expressed that there is no single point of contact between the student body and the administration in the current situation. Her suggestion is that student government could be that point of contact. While she has a point, a student government could just as easily end up becoming a wall between the two instead. If the student government established was the misrepresentation of the student body it almost promises to be, it would just increase the voice of those whose voices are already heard and further push the concerns of those who struggle to be heard farther into the distance. Those who are mistreated and unheard at BSA would continue to exist in those conditions because they would continue to be unacknowledged. If the members of student government don’t accurately represent those students, the students will have even less influence than they do now. There is one adjective to describe that kind of political body, and it is corrupt.
The corruption that would be experienced if the student government is implemented poorly brings another issue to the table: student government at BSA needs to balance the necessity of diversity with the importance of having an actively implemented agenda. “Trying to be a diverse organization can be an all consuming task” said Duncan-Evans, “but then the work takes over and you get distracted by the fact that you’re actually doing programming now. The diversity and inclusivity wind up getting put on the back burner.” BSA is a diverse community on its own with an exceptionally vocal student body because they have the outlet of artistic expression to present their discontent. Most schools don’t have that. Even though some feel as though the student body has little to no voice, it has a lot in comparison to other student bodies. While students should always stand up for what they believe in and express their discontent when it is felt, student government would not help their situation. Student government, as it exists elsewhere, is also a part of a larger community. That greater community does not understand BSA. “It’s bigger network,” says Daisy Newman, a junior at Francis Scott Key High School. “Your SGA would network with a larger meeting for BCPSS schools and MD Schools.” Associating with other schools and conforming to a student government format intended for regular student bodies would be detrimental to the entire idea of BSA.
Misunderstanding in the SGA community would have a negative impact on BSA simply because BSA would suddenly become less of a unique environment for it’s students. “Student government is a very concrete thing and student governments tend to look the same,” says Duncan-Evans. The “one-size-fits-all” format of student government would not fit BSA because BSA is nothing like the other BCPSS schools. Student government at other schools is generally a smaller body in a larger body, Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC). MASC is the Maryland student government. It consists of select representatives from each district who attend an annual conference. If BSA establishes a Student Government Association, representatives would likely have to work with other city schools to discuss issues in the greater BCPSS community. BSA faces very different issues than other schools. The conferences are not going to be helpful to BSA as a whole. Most BSA students are already equipped with the skill sets that they try to instill at such conferences.
The conferences that representatives would attend are workshops on how to better the community, develop leadership skills, and accept diversity and differences. BSA is already an exceptionally diverse and accepting environment. Duncan-Evans, when asked about her view on BSA’s environment responded with a genuine smile, “I didn’t know high school could be like this.” Additionally, she observed that, “Leadership tends to develop naturally and organically here at BSA.” The benefits of having a student government are already exhibited and nourished in BSA’s environment so why would anyone try to structure it? Structuring things takes away people’s freedom to grow as artists. It makes no sense to risk hindering such development in an attempt to mass produce it instead of letting it grow in the organic way that it does now.
SGA is a pseudo-student run organization and simply does not belong at BSA. The school has to resign itself to plenty of other things regular schools have to face and it is unfair to BSA students to subject them to more of the morbid normality. The voice of the students can be heard in much more effective ways than implementing a student government. Student government is the wrong choice for BSA.