Student Council Presidents hopeful for student life changes

In a pivotal time for student life at Weber, The RamPage talked with Sophia Frankel, outgoing president of Student Council, and Daniel Stearns, incoming president, regarding their opinions on student life, events, Student Council, and their plans for the future.

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Sam Halpern: Sophia, how long have you been part of Student Council?

Sophia Frankel: Well, I was President this year and I was Vice President last year, but I had previously run for Sophomore grade representative (and lost).

Sam: What will you miss most about Student Council after you graduate?

Sophia: Kind of knowing about what’s going on in the school. I’m not going to be here, so it doesn’t really matter if I know, but it was nice to get to plan events and we got some of the firsthand information about what was happening in general [around the school].

Sam: What will you miss most about Weber?

Sophia: I always have had the best experience here; I know everyone, I always felt like I was part of the community. I’m going to miss that feeling and I’m also going to miss the teachers. I’ve formed some really close relationships with teachers and I’m going to miss that. Something I’m not going to miss about Weber is the stairs. I hate those. It’s been four years, and I still get out of breath when I’m walking up. It should be a P.E. credit!

Sam: What made each of you want to become part of Student Council?

Sophia: I wanted to be part of more leadership roles to work on my public speaking, because I think it’s a really important skill to have and [because] Student Council seemed cool.

Daniel Stearns: When I came to Weber this year as a transfer, I really wanted to make a difference but I didn’t see many ways that I felt like I could get involved with leadership because a lot of the space for leadership had already been taken up by kids who had been part of leadership of clubs and that kind of stuff already, so I didn’t really know where to fit. When people started discussing Student Council, it was something I was interested in; I felt like that was a place where I could make a difference for all the students.

Sophia: Nice. 

Weber's 2015 Purim celebration, including Purim Puff and a Megillah reading. (The Weber School/YouTube)

Sam: What are you each most pleased with about student life and/or Student Council this year?

Sophia: Well, this is something not really what we did, but this year we were so much more organized. We split up our meetings: it went Executive Board one week, then the next week was General Board, then the week after was everyone together. Last year we had everyone together. We didn’t get anything done, it was everyone yelling at each other for like a whole hour and this year we were much more organized, and I felt like we accomplished a lot more. 

Daniel: I haven’t gotten to be a part of a lot of Student Council meetings for this year, but it seems to me from what I’ve heard from Sophia and from Mrs. Geppert that things this year have been a lot smoother on Student Council and I honestly just want to continue that into next year. I think it’s important that we maintain that organizational momentum because I don’t want things to fall through.

Sam: Is there anything either of you are not pleased with?

Sophia: I think the amount of things that we proposed, events or clubs or just something that we proposed and didn’t get done, never happened. I wish that number could’ve been a bit lower.

Daniel: Coming in as a transfer, all the things I had heard about that had happened in the past. I wasn’t involved with Student Council, but I thought that Formal was awesome this year. I thought it went really well and it seemed there was good attendance. They did, like, a lot of advocating for it and a lot of publicity like posters and emails, which I thought was really important. So, I think that if you want to make other events on that scale, you’ll have to continue that.

Sophia: Another problem that I noticed is a lot of people at this school don’t have have school spirit, and I think that’s something, if you want to work on that [looking at Daniel]. I don’t know if that’s a year long thing to do or a bunch of years.

This year has been the least activities year, pertaining to holidays and just everything else […]”

— Sophia Frankel

Sophia: There’s a lack of student involvement. It’s frustrating.
[TO DANIEL] I have a question for you. What have you noticed of the role of Student Council, like, are we visible with what we do? Because we do a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, or is it just the big things?

Daniel: Honestly, I didn’t really know…what Student Council was about until I started this process, and I think that is an issue because I think people should be knowing what Student Council is doing. That’s why I was thinking maybe if we started something like Student Council newsletter, like bi-weekly…

Sophia: Oh, I like that…

Daniel: Or once a month about what’s going on [in] Student Council and how can other students get involved and that kind of thing.

Sophia: I like that, that’s really cool.

Sam: What changes would you make, like what would you do?

Daniel: Yeah, I’ve definitely been thinking about morning announcements and what would be a way to implement it that wouldn’t be distracting for the teachers. What I’ve heard is that a lot of the teachers complained about it because they felt it was taking up class time. I feel like we’d have to talk to Mrs. Geppert about it and find a time that it could work, but I think it’s important that the students’ voices are more heard and not just seen in emails, because not everyone checks their emails.

Sam: What is each of your overall opinions on Weber student life this past year?

Daniel: I don’t have anything to compare it to. I’ve felt like I’ve had a good time this year and that I’ve never felt bored, but from what I’ve heard from other students, student life apparently hasn’t been as interactive this year, especially around the holidays. Something I definitely want to change next year is to try and get the faculty more involved in the conversation with students about how we can change this. I think planning events with students, not just with faculty, and coming back to throw changes or removed events in the students’ faces. Then the students feel like they’ve had something taken away from them without any kind of conversation.

Editor’s note: Student Council plans events such as Formal and other dances, as well as special Kehillahs.

Sam: So, what other specific plans do you envision?

Weber's 2014 Coffee House. (The Weber School/YouTube)

Daniel: Well, I definitely want to do some kind of field day; also, people were telling me about color war. [We could also do] field day or [something just to] get everyone outside all day. Then, I want to do a homecoming game and a homecoming dance, separate from formal earlier in the year. I’ve heard about Purim Puff and that would be something I’d really be interested in pushing. Or, doing a Purim carnival. Of course, there would need to be a lot of fundraising around those events, but I think it’s important for student life to bring things back that students hold really fond memories about, especially as a senior next year, I just want the best experience possible. Coffee House and Weberstock are also some things I’d love to do to.

Sophia: Oh, I forgot about those. Oh my gosh. So sad.

Daniel: Tik Day didn’t happen this year and I heard about that too. I think that it’s important to give back to the community. 

Sophia: Just overall, all of the stuff you’re saying is bringing back memories. This year has been the least activities year, pertaining to holidays and just everything else, like, overall. This year for holidays, the school said something about if a holiday didn’t fall on a school day, we wouldn’t celebrate it. Purim didn’t fall on a school day and we usually do a whole Megillah reading and Rabbi Harwitz dresses up as a gorilla. It’s so much fun and we all get to dress up and we didn’t get to do that. Then with Yom HaAtzmaut, we usually have a field day or a carnival. I feel like we haven’t done anything this year. This year the school had a holiday committee, but then they didn’t end up doing anything—or maybe that was last year—I’m not sure.

Weber's 2013 Yom HaAtzmaut celebration, which included a color war. (The Weber School/YouTube)

Sam: Sophia, how do you think student life has changed with Sim to Rabbi Harwitz?

Editor’s note: Sim Pearl is the previous head of school before Rabbi Ed Harwitz. He left at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

Sophia: It’s a different Weber than what I came to, but I think there are positive and negative aspects to all of it. I had a really great time freshman year because I felt that we [the school] were a lot closer. We’re definitely a very close community now, but I think it was much more my freshman year. But I really like Rabbi Harwitz; he’s so open to everything. If I want something, I’ll just go up to him and explain my reason why and he’ll bend over backwards to help me out.

Sam: What do you hope or want to see with Student Council in the future?

Sophia: In thinking about student life, I’d really like for all of that student life to come back, especially holidays. Just summarizing everything we’ve talked about, I think people understanding what Student Council does [is important]. My platform was [advocating for] transparency when I ran last year, and I wanted to have open meetings, but that never happened. I think we advertised it once and no one ever came. I wanted for it to be that we’re not just with the teachers. I think Daniel made a point of the teachers just sort of throwing stuff at the students without them being a part of it and I kind of felt like at some points even Student Council was doing that without letting [students] see our process and how we got there. 

Editor’s note: Students are still welcome to attend Student Council meetings.

Daniel: I want to open up the line of communication between faculty and the students. I think it’s really important for there to be a lot of conversation going on so the Student Council can be active in supporting student life and keeping students generally happy with the way things are going in the school. 

Sam: Sophia, do you have any tips or advice for Daniel?

Sophia: If he wants something, work hard for it. Don’t just work on it for three weeks and then let it fizzle out. You have to set an example and sometimes it’s super [annoying]. For example, I want to go on my phone during Tefillah or Kehillah, I really do because sometimes it’s boring, but you can’t. You also have to push things sometimes that people don’t like. Don’t care about what other people think too much, but obviously you have to [somewhat] because you’re part of Student Council. Additionally, during Student Council meetings there’s going to be yelling and you just have to deal with it.

Sam: Also, if you could continue being a part of Student Council, would you want to improve things that you’ve mentioned, or would there be additional things?

Sophia: If I were to be here for another year, I’d want to change everything. I’m not sure about any specifics, but in the past few years I’ve come to realize that change is good. That’s why I’m really excited that Daniel is coming because I know he’s going to take [things] into a completely different direction […], because I adopted some of the ways of Max Harris, who was the president before me. So I think change is good.

Sam: Daniel, what part of Student Council are looking forward to the most?

Daniel: Being able to make changes and listen to the students to relay what they’re saying to all of Student Council. Also relay from Student Council to the faculty about what students need.

Sam: And is there one big thing that you hope to bring to Student Council?

Daniel: Just a lot of positivity. I think I’m a pretty good mediator, so minimizing the yelling that goes on in meetings would be great. Also, establishing a firm presence within Student Council; saying I’m not going to deal with you guys being petty and fighting over something. It’s important to listen to the students and not just push our own personal agenda.

Sam: Do either of you have anything else you want to say?

Sophia: [TO DANIEL] Have fun with it. My favorite part was writing speeches because sometimes they were funny and sometimes they were not funny, but it was fun; it was like a show. So, take advantage of the spotlight.

Sam: Okay, thank you to you both. 

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Based on the conversation with Sophia and Daniel, below is a list of student life programs or initiatives that were dropped or changed in the past few years. To be fair, many events specific to holidays were not scheduled this past year due to incompatibility between the Jewish calendar and days Weber had school. This includes Purim, as well as Tik Day (which was split up by grade).

  • Purim (Purim Puff and Megillah reading)
  • Coffee House
  • Yom HaAtzmaut celebration – color war/field day
  • Morning announcements
  • Tik Day (no longer school-wide)
  • Weberstock (Rosh Chodesh celebration)
  • Latke vs. Hamentashen Debate
  • Various other holiday programming

Additionally, in an email sent to parents and students on May 8, Head of School Rabbi Ed Harwitz and Principal Shlaina VanDyke invited parents to an optional information meeting regarding STEM programs, college advising, and student life for next year. They also mentioned that “[a]fter careful reflection and discussion, our team has decided that Weber will not offer the Haskalah term next January 2018.” The parent meeting is on Wednesday, May 24 at 7pm and parents are asked to RSVP here.

UPDATE: Per the information available at publishing time, Weber will have a record enrollment of more than 270 students for the 2017-2018 school year, including more than seventy students in the Class of 2021. It remains unclear how this might impact student life, although it was announced that a Faculty Task Force has been created to address academics and student life.

Which student life program(s) would you be excited about?

  • Yom HaAtzmaut celebration – color war/field day (44%, 4 Votes)
  • School-wide Tik Day (22%, 2 Votes)
  • Weberstock (Rosh Chodesh celebration) (11%, 1 Votes)
  • Other holiday programming (11%, 1 Votes)
  • All of them! (11%, 1 Votes)
  • Purim (Purim Puff and Megillah reading) (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Coffee House (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Morning announcements (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Latke vs. Hamentashen Debate (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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Note: Interview transcript edited for clarity, conciseness, and grammar. 

UPDATED 11/22 for compliance with The RamPage Policy, Ethics and Style Handbook and for compliance with the AP Stylebook.