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Editorial: The importance of empathy for class officers

Claire Guo and Alyssa Wang
When making decisions, there are many factors that class officers may consider that other students may not realize.

From behind-the-scenes projects to class-wide events, class officers are the backbone of making plans a reality. They represent the voice of the student community by generating ideas, organizing events and overseeing activities. Despite their efforts to accommodate the student body’s best interests, they receive frequent backlash in response to their actions. It is crucial to recognize that class officers grapple with factors such as time and monetary constraints that students may be unaware of, leading to unfair judgment and criticism.

Class officers are tasked with a variety of responsibilities interspersed with weekly meetings with other officers and advisors. Each event starts with the formulation of ideas, discussion of feasibility with the admin and advisers and careful planning of budget and time. 

Even with meticulous planning and consideration of these many aspects, proposed events do not always run smoothly. Oftentimes, the success of these decisions depends on external circumstances that cannot be controlled, such as budget, time constraints and the class’ expectations. The school and class officers hold limited amounts of money, much of which comes from donations and fundraising sales events.

“There’s a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes that people who aren’t class officers don’t really get to see. There’s a lot of things that need to happen for an event like Junior Prom,” Class of 2025 adviser Luca Signore said.

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 In the light of recent complications with Junior Prom, officers faced clear difficulties. The initial expectation of 300 Class of 2025 participants translated to only around only 215 ticket sales, presenting a significant financial challenge for the class. If the class officers, class advisers and admin decided to move forward with only juniors attending, the class would receive less funding than what would be necessary for future events, such as Senior Prom. After extensive discussions and input from admin, the junior class officers decided to invite sophomores to increase their funding levels. The invitation was not extended to seniors due to concerns that cheaper Junior Prom tickets would detract from Senior Prom attendance. This decision sparked backlash across the student community on social media, with students demanding that future class officers refrain from making the same decision.

“During the entire situation, we were all on a call for four hours trying to figure out a solution,” Class of 2025 officer Dishita Aeron said. “It’s definitely hard for the people commenting on our decisions to know what goes on behind the scenes.” 

This outcry from the juniors can be understood, as an experience usually marked as uniquely “junior” was including underclassmen. However, it is important to consider that budget plays a vital role in decision-making, as these events are costly to prepare and put into action. From the venue to catering, almost all aspects of Junior Prom were set, yet unforeseen obstacles can cause last-minute adjustments. Although some junior students may have felt that their prom event would be unsatisfactory with the addition of sophomores, the experience was no less remarkable in terms of quality. With this decision, the class officers are more likely to receive enough money to maintain the quality of their future events, such as Senior Prom.

Class of 2024 and 2023 officer teams have also had their share of obstacles. The company who printed the senior shirts for the Class of 2024 misprinted the shirts, deviating from the traditional senior shirt design. Some students were upset, but the change posed no significant diminishing of class spirit. Ultimately, the class officers decided to keep the shirts as they were, although a second round of reprints were offered to any interested seniors.

“One of the things that you realize when you’re making such big decisions for large groups of people is that there are different aspects to consider and it’s hard to make everyone satisfied in the end,” Class of 2024 Vice President Derek Li said. 

The Class of 2023 faced backlash for their decision to end the Lynbrook tradition of holding prom on the Hornblower cruise ship. This decision was influenced by bookings errors on the part of the renting company, and fears surrounding the possibility of COVID-19 outbreaks. After discussions of alternative plans, including combining Junior and Senior Prom, the officers ultimately decided to hold Senior Prom at a large land venue. This, in addition to the high price of the land venue resulted in widespread discontent among the senior students.

“I think the comments that we received started getting a little bit personal and harsh,” Class of 2023 Vice President Arushi Gupta said. 

It is easy to push the blame onto the class officers, criticizing what some perceive to be inadequate decisions. Nonetheless, the majority of the student community do not have the complete perspective of the causes behind the decisions of class officers. Although class officers contribute to the decisions being made, administrators are largely responsible for the final call. Simply accusing class officers of making unfavorable decisions is not a productive way to solve the actual issues.

“I think one of the things to keep in mind is that a lot of the power and the decisions that are being made aren’t from us,” Class of 2026 President Samay Sikri said. “We’re the messengers; a lot of the actual decisions come from administrators.”

Even then, administrators have the students’ best interests in mind, and any unpopular decision was made to combat technical concerns. Creating a scenario in which everyone is fully satisfied is impossible, and compromises must be made in order to preserve the quality of the future events. Additionally,  class officers may have a better idea of student dilemmas than students give them credit for.

“You can’t judge a situation based on just one event, you have to know the entire context of what’s going on,” Class of 2027 President Aarav Anand said. 

Students should instead seek information when confused or strongly opinionated regarding class events. The class advisers and ASB adviser Anna Kirsh welcome inquiries, and informed in-person suggestions towards the class officers will produce a more effective outcome compared to harassment and criticism. In the past, class officers have gathered feedback through forms on social media, and sought advice from previous class officers. 

“If the students are having fun and able to do what they’ve proposed, it’s time well spent and I feel like I played a part in making their school life a bit better,” Class of 2026 adviser Kevin Tran said.

Despite their extensive responsibilities and leadership skills, it is important to remember that class officers have a life outside of the school community, and uninformed comments associated with their decisions on class events can be upsetting and further increase pressure on class officers.

“They’re trying to make decisions for what they think is the best for their class,” ASB adviser Anna Kirsh said. “But it’s also important to remember that for a lot of them it’s their first time in school leadership positions. At the end of the day, all of them are students and one of the difficulties is having to make these very big, very public decisions. They’re doing the best they can with their experiences.”

It is crucial to recognize that student officers are elected through vigorous levels of campaigns, in which their capabilities are weighed by the student population. Those who are chosen possess key qualities which make them effective decision makers for the student community.

“I want to emphasize the difficulty of planning these large-scale events for the entire class,” Assistant Principal of Activities and Athletics Yukari Salazar said. “Be kind to your officers. You elected them for a reason.”

Especially during difficult times, it is important for students to appreciate the work of class officers, who are doing their best to represent their voices and make the high school experience truly the best it can be. 

“There were bumps along the road, but they were able to turn things around quickly,” junior Kylie Liao said. “I think they did really well managing all the stress and still being able to put this huge event out there.”

“They’re trying to make decisions for what they think is the best for their class.” Anna Kirsh, ASB Adviser

— Anna Kirsh, ASB Adviser

This story was originally published on The Epic on April 1, 2024.