COMMENTARY | SGA: What Went Wrong?

Opinion, Politics and Activism, School Year 2021-22

By: Quinn Katz-Zogby

As I stood in the dusty corner of the Ballroom waiting for the Town Hall to start, frantically typing completely unintelligible notes on my cracked phone screen with one of my editors, Alex, tearing through pages in his faux-leather notepad fast enough to make the Amazon rainforest worry for its safety, the words that came to mind again and again were Winston Churchill’s: “the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” Swaths of sophomores complained of a lack of information in emails they hadn’t bothered to read. Fresh-faced freshmen asked for teachers to be fired because of a lack of communication and our student government again and again bemoaned their own lack of power. “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” It really is a wonderful quote by the stalwart British Bulldog himself, Winston Churchill. The only issue is that he never actually said that.

It is easy to have walked away from watching the proceedings of that day’s town hall and have very little faith in any sort of student administration, to think: “Are those people really worthy to be taken seriously and have power over serious matters?” “Should we let these people sit in on board meetings and make policy decisions for the operation of such an important function of public government as a school?”

These questions are valid, however, that experience, standing alongside one of my editors, documenting the concerns of these hundreds of young people left me questioning this defeatist outlook. These people will grow up to work in all sorts of different industries, vote in dozens of elections, get married, have children, do all of these incredibly human things. Exercise such power over their own lives, and even over my life, but there, in that room, all sitting on uncomfortable plastic chairs, genuinely trying to voice their concerns over their own lives, they are utterly powerless to change much of anything.

Yes, maybe many of their questions are ridiculous or frivolous or whatever derogatory adjective we choose to employ, but at the end of the day, if you have been told that your voice matters, your vote matters, and then have everyone in the room where you’re voicing your opinions utterly powerless to act upon them, I would also be desperate. How are these people going to feel when they go out into the world as adults? Will they have faith in our real elected officials to help them in their everyday lives? Will they be able to trust the government that is supposed to represent them to actually hear their concerns and work to alleviate whatever hardships that can be alleviated?
I hope that the failures of this year’s student government will be remembered by the student body not as the failures of the individuals they elected, but as the failures of the laughably flawed system that they were given. President Sydney Lane-Ryer said herself in an interview that this year’s government simply “didn’t have time or resources to do nearly as much as we wanted to do.” 

President Lane-Ryer went on to acknowledge that the SGA was given essentially no powers outside of asking the school administration for things. When the SGA requested to have a say in board meetings and sit in on staff meetings they were either denied out of hand, given faulty links to Zoom meetings or simply ignored. “SGA has not been taken seriously, but we need to have more official prestige and sound structure. We know that we have to push our way in,” Lane-Ryer said. While faculty advisors Meg Grouzard and Jocelyn Providence have definitely helped in the process, ultimately most of the student government’s plans have been canceled by either the BSA board or the Baltimore City Board of Education. Whether that be greater demonstrations, speeches, and protests have all been either vetoed by higher-ups or canceled due to COVID concerns.

However, there is a solution to this. The BSA Board and Administration need us, the students, far more than we need them. More radical actions like student strikes, walkouts, and refusal to participate in fundraising events like Expressions can all be powerful forms of forcing the Board and the City to take us seriously. While we may currently feel as if we are screaming our legitimate concerns into a void, with petty complaints and important issues all being grouped together, we do have the power to change things. The student government this year has not done all that it was promised to be, but if we come into next year ready to make the changes we want to see, SGA can be even more.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at