The Power of Student Government in Shaping the Campus Community

* This post was originally featured on The Student Affairs Hub.

College students have long used the campus environment to work towards positive social change. The very nature of a university encourages this sort of intellectual discourse, and a common way for students to get involved in making a difference on campus is through student government. It allows for students to debate important campus topics, and provides a platform for the institution to directly hear the needs of the student body.

The beauty of student government is that it is typically accessible to all students. New incoming students can be encouraged to find a voice within this organization, meet fellow students, and start making their legacy known at their institution (Trust me, they'll thank you for the legacy stuff come graduation time).

I found out about the power of student government far too late into my undergraduate career. In my final year, I was passionate about getting hydration stations installed on campus, to provide cold, clean and filtered water in a sustainable way that would reduce the use of plastic water bottles while encouraging healthier habits in students. I realized a way to start to make this change possible was to lobby the student government to accept a stance of advocating for these to become a part of the community. Once they accepted, within months there were a few of these stations popping up around campus. This felt so inspiring to accomplish in such a short amount of time!

Perhaps they were already planning on doing this, but at the very least, through my efforts, the student body representatives let their voice be heard and for the future, the administration would know that students wanted to have the hydration stations and would feel more accountable to do so.

Especially for new, incoming students, building confidence, connections, and communication skills are all pretty valuable goals for student affairs professionals. So I encourage you to empower your students to get involved in student government. Even more importantly, I encourage you to bring students to the table and let them be heard when it comes to decision making. They'll have some important insights and they are the ones who it will affect, so I think it is only fair to hear them out. At the very least, they'll benefit from the experience.