ABCD: Investigating the Tradition

Everyone is familiar with the frightening first visit to WCI’s Student Activities as a grade 9 student: the internal debate over whether or not to knock, and the disappointment when there are only intimidating senior students in the room. It can become so memorable that many students vividly recall it.

To some at WCI, ABCD has come to be associated with this negative experience among others, such as the embitterment that rejected students feel towards the group.

ABCD (the Board of Control and Athletic Directorate) is the Student Council Executive led by Student Activities Director Mr. Nickel. The WCI Student Planner defines a position on ABCD as a way to “develop leadership skills and make a lasting contribution to the WCI community.”

This mandate has the potential to build positive leaders who become a unifying force within the school. Despite this positive objective, however, ABCD’s negative reputation—the popular perceptions of elitism and of members getting more recognition than is justified for their work—has continued to fester in some students’ minds and has become just as big a part of WCI’s traditions as the group itself.

To investigate if this reputation is grounded in fact, five past and eight current ABCD members, as well as several teachers, were interviewed. Whether anonymous or named, interviewees shared both positive and negative aspects of the group and many suggested areas for improvement.

 Selection Process

To join ABCD, students have two options. The first is to run for an elected position in a school-wide election. The second is to submit an application to be reviewed by Nickel and several high-profile ABCD members, such as the Co-Mayors and Athletic Commissioners; accepted applicants are interviewed to narrow the number of people down to fill predetermined positions. The process can result in occasional issues and has been designated a “popularity contest” by some.

Many students question whether the right people are being chosen for the roles due to certain ABCD members having such a key role in the interview process. Another question is whether students are given enough information before applying. One member shared, “Some people didn’t understand how much work it was before they signed up for it/applied for it and now that they’re on, I feel like they try to get out of some of the work.”

However, Paul T., one of the current Co-Mayors of the school, knows the process can never be truly perfect: “Back when I was in the room choosing people, I felt really bad because there were some really, really good candidates that we just couldn’t put on. But if ABCD was bigger it wouldn’t function as well … it’s a shame we can’t take more people.”

Academics and Accountability

Once selected for the council, members are enrolled in the Open-level leadership course. The course, just like all others, means members receive a full credit for the work they do. The nature of the course, with almost all work being independent and self-enforced, can encourage some students to take on new challenges but others to put next to no effort into it and get away with it, according to several current and past members.

Most interviewees agreed that a portion of students believe that they are entitled or deserve to be on the council but that they do not actually want to help the school. One current member claimed that “a lot of people just do it to get the shirt.” Another past member added, “No one bothers to look at what individual people are doing and they need to evaluate what the actual positions do.”

Co-Mayer Paul disagreed with this statement and said that members are aware of the people who do not do any work, but it is only a very small fraction of the class who does not do anything. “I think that lack of accountability is a huge issue,” he explained, adding that “people who go out to lunch or go home instead of being in SAC [Student Activities] to help others don’t really demonstrate hard work or leadership.”

Some may argue that the fact that ABCD members are graded on their work solves this lack of accountability; however, one current ABCD student revealed, “How the course is assessed isn’t always representative of a true mark … I think that the grading structure isn’t solid.” To address this issue, several people who were interviewed shared their support for making it a University-level course instead of an Open-level course, with lessons and assignments instead of meetings.

A criticism of ABCD that some students and teachers have has to do with how much class they miss, but Mrs. Gowing, a physical education teacher at WCI, said that “most ABCD kids are good at time management, so they tend to be proactive in communicating when they will be missing class to fulfill ABCD commitments.” While communicating absences is a step in the right direction, being accountable to their other academic courses is believed to be a priority all ABCD students should make, too.

At the end of it, all groups (sports teams, clubs, student councils, and more) have members who do not contribute, leaving others in the group to pull the neglected weight. “If there are times when one of our members takes too much for granted the rest of the school assumes that applies to everyone in the group,” Nickel said, adding that generalizing ABCD based on a few students can lead to inaccurate views of the council.

Good Intentions

While students believe there are improvements that could be made to the council, it is crucial to remember that their intentions, as a whole, are in the right place. Students and teachers familiar with ABCD propose that most of the negative reputation stems from a lack of understanding of the fact that ABCD runs most events at WCI. Events such as school photos, semi-formal, awards, most assemblies, and Grade 8 orientation are all organized and run by ABCD, yet this role is often forgotten.

Mrs. Edwards, a former Student Activities secretary, can testify to the fact that some members work very hard: “I have seen first hand the amount of work they put in each and every day.”

Mr. Nickel said, and several ABCD students agreed, many student council members do not realize how much work their peers do because some positions are more in the “spotlight” than others.

Michal K., a current ABCD member, said, “The issues of the system are, for the most part, recognized and discussed in meetings. Like most places in life, it’s hard to make drastic changes when we get comfortable with the way things are. However, ABCD is slowly, but surely, addressing the flaws of the system.”

Student Activities Director Mr. Nickel added that making students more comfortable when entering SAC has been a recent topic of discussion at retreats.

As a current ABCD student explained, “If I make someone feel intimidated, I want to know how to change it!”

English teacher Ms. Crowell argued that ABCD is receptive to feedback, and she has never felt ignored when she has approached them with suggestions. “I know they’re working on that and I encourage them to continue working on that,” she said.

Another English teacher, Ms. Klassen, provided one such suggestion for a tangible way ABCD can combat its elitist reputation: “Currently, the ‘Student Activities hallway’ is a central location to find all members and their lockers. Perhaps one way to promote inclusion, leadership and community building is to disperse council members’ lockers throughout the school. This change could eliminate the ‘exclusive’ feel of the Student Activities hallway and give council members more of an opportunity to make connections with more of the student population.”

As a reporter, my job is to remain objective, which I have tried to do in representing various views on the role ABCD plays at WCI. The following are my own personal views on the matter:

Regardless of how students feel about ABCD, its members and its role in the school, it is essential to keep in mind that WCI’s student council contributes to the school in more ways than many schools in the region. Suggestions outlined in this article, as submitted by the student body and teachers, such as relocating lockers and reconsidering how the course is marked, are just some examples of what a continued open dialogue with the school can look like. There will always be room for improvement, but at the bare bones of it, ABCD has its heart in the right place. By remembering to keep listening to the students they have committed to serve and responding to what they hear in meaningful ways, ABCD can remain a positive, defining part of our school.

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