Jake Peterson and Leo Xie face a significant dilemma
Inclusion. That’s the word Jake gave me to summarise his entire goal for the upcoming school year. Through a wide-scale campaign that involved stickers, posters and graffiti that every Day resident cannot escape from, they have certainly begun leaving their mark.
When asked about their motivations for running, both were inspired by previous leaders who led the way. Jake explains, “I was mostly inspired by, ironically, previous Vice presidents like Tony Chen, Romi Marckx, Holden Orias.” Echoing this sentiment, Leo says, “It’s Audrey Yip. Last May, I heard her vespers speech and I wanted to be like her. I want to inspire people to be brave and make this community better.”
The election result ended up being a big shock to both of them. Jake explains, “Everyone was saying I did not have a shot. Like people were coming up to me and saying ‘It’s not looking good for you. I saw Leo down at Talbot and we shouted and ran to each other; it was a really joyous victory.”
One of the centrepieces of their campaigns is to create common spaces for the underclassmen. While the upperclassman occupies the plush sofas and central space of Rosen, most of the freshman and sophomores are stuck in the Learning Commons. Jake wants to fix this: ”One idea is hammocks. I went out with a notepad and kicked every tree near campus to try to find the best one. I found the best trees I can tell you about. Another option is the campus store because it’s a space we don’t really use anymore. We can ask those who are usually in Rosen their opinions and ask ‘Hey, is this going to work?’”
Another issue that they want to resolve is a disconnect between Student Council and the student body it serves. Leo is especially passionate about this issue, explaining: “Student Council meetings are not transparent at all. Students have no idea what is happening behind the scenes. Many people have said that prefects have done more than we have.” Jake agrees with this, claiming: “It’s true that it’s not the most accessible thing which is really unfortunate. You don’t know what StuCo does.”
To tackle this, Leo proposes: “We will make assembly announcements on Student Council progress so students can see what we have or haven’t achieved between our last meetings.
And whether that’s with a minutes email or going up to assembly—we want to be open to being open.I wish we can foster a culture of student sovereignty. It shouldn't just be the heads, but the entire student population should decide what they want. I think our main goal is to serve the students, and it should be a place that students come to if they need something, knowing they’ll get it done.”
Inclusion isn’t just a physical act, but a social one. Luckily, Jake and Leo agree that, “I think our main strength is that we're very communicative and accessible people. We’ve had a lot of people come up to us all the time and tell us what they want. Like someone wanted me to get rid of all their Friday Night Study Halls and I had to explain that wasn’t how it worked.”
Furthermore, the school has a long track record of female presidents, and with DEI emerging as a central focus for the school, it can be a tricky issue to tackle. To help with this, Jake shares: “We’re not female presidents, and some people have an issue with that. But that doesn’t remove us from being open to the issues marginalised groups face. Like the first month, we should meet with all the affinity groups. We want to help everybody because our one word is inclusion.” Leo concludes, “Not being able to speak from the ‘I’ perspective doesn’t mean we can’t speak from the ally perspective. As Jake said, we’ll talk to the affinity groups and seek ways to make the diverse population in Stevenson feel more included.”
Besides the common spaces, Jake wants to pursue other initiatives as well. For rising juniors, Jake says, “Parking is a big issue. Junior parking sucks—it is a trek and a half. So we want to try to find better spaces for that. And for Simmoneau, let’s get more small Yerbs and see if we can lower some prices in the store.” Adding onto this, Leo mentions, “For underclassmen, it is important for Student Council to spearhead events to make every freshman feel like Stevenson is a community. There is a big difference between feeling included and feeling like you belong.”
For the rising senior class, Jake explains, “We’ll have our traditions like Senior Sunrise. Senior Luncheon. Like bring back Senior Prank Day or do a bonfire where we all go down the beach and burn some sentimental items. The goal is to do as much as we want to do so I’m open to anything.”
Though who can forget Jake’s sweeping claim of impeachment. Turns out, he was serious. As Jake shares, “It is a little grey area- I got a little beating in about it. But I want to be able to be impeached because if I’m doing a bad job I don’t want to screw everybody.” Leo adds, Technically, it’s in the not defined area of the Student Council Constitution. If we loosely interpret it, it is a possibility.” There’s certainly a first time for everything, but let’s hope we don’t end up with two different presidents.
As the year comes to a close and the Romis’ pass along the torch, Jake and Leo are committed to making their campaign messages come true. With confidence, Jake declares, “I said I would get everything done in the first month, and all jokes aside, we could get pretty close. We’ll show them we’ll get it done by getting it done.”