Louis Philip Masi
Louis Philip Masi
70 Years of the Regis Student Council
While today Regians see their Student Council as a way for all students to have input into the life of the school, for the first twenty four years of Regis’ existence, the Student Council did not exist as a forum for students in all four years to voice their opinions. Instead, its membership was limited to seniors who were chosen only by members of that class . As an editorialist aptly noted in article inThe Owl dated November 22, 1938: “The result was that while the outcome pleased the senior year, it pleased only the senior year.” The only way underclassmen and juniors were able to have their voices heard was if they had significant sway with the senior officers.So, in the fall of 1938, 70 years ago this year, Fr. Daniel Burke, S.J., ’19, then headmaster, inaugurateda new Student Councilwhose membership was now expanded to include representatives from all three years and whose job was to solicit the opinion of the entire student body.
Despite finally giving a formal place to the opinions of the entire student body, the newly reconstituted council was not organization whose representatives were chosen in a completely democratic fashion. Whileone representative from each of the four yearswas elected by the students in that year, the second representative from each classwas appointed by the Prefect of Studies. It was the active interest of students in school affairs which had led Fr. Burke to create the Council. Student suggestions which were put into effect before the Council’s creation included the establishment of a school baseball team and the introduction of an annual school-wide outing, which originally took the form of a boat ride, going to places such as RyeBeach and Bear Mountain. In addition to recommending changes and improvements, the Student Council also had the responsibility to make sure that “flagrant violations and abuses which result from the privileges gained by its effort” were avoided. If there were such abuses, it would only be “logical for the Council to move to withdraw the privilege as something which opposes the discipline of the school.”
At the council’s beginning there seems to have been a worry that students would not be very enthusiastic about its activity.Fr. Burke “expressed the hope that the students would do all in their power to assist the Student Council in its activities.”The Owl editorialist warned that “the success of the Council depends greatly upon the support the students give it [and that] cooperation is the hand that will build the true Student Council.” This turned out to be true in the first years of the Council and has remained true for the past seventy years.The Regian of 1939 even states that the creation of the council would help students to become more mature, for “the existence of the Council will make for a greater sense of responsibility in the student body and promote a more active cooperative spirit between students and faculty.”
Over the last seven decades, the Student Council has largely proven itself to be a success in involving student in decisions affecting the life of the student body. In addition to remaining in dialogue with the faculty and administration today, in more recent years the Council has worked with the food service company which operates the cafeteria. The Council has worked to make sure that the quality of the food remains high and the prices remain reasonable. It must also be noted that the Council not only serves the student body, but also the greater societal good, especially with the recent edition of a “Catalyst Representative.”(Catalyst is student group which works to engage students in additional service opportunities.) The Council takes initiative in organizing charitable events such as sponsoring dress-down days during which students pay a small fee in order to wear “grub” attire. In return the proceeds are given to a charity of the Council’s choosing.
Thus after seventy years it seems that Father Burke’s noble experiment in a “limited student democracy” has yielded good results.