Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President (Part Seven)

The dream was dead.  After stinking up the place for 3 whole months, I was no longer the Student Council President of Delta Secondary School.  And yet, the nightmare continued.
 
After resigning in front of the Executive branch in late November 1992 I went home feeling a little better about myself.  It’s very, very hard to admit you’re a failure in front of people who came to that realization a lot quicker than you did.  But it had to be done.  And I was relieved that I wasn’t running the show anymore.  (Not that I was really running anything very well to begin with.)
 
Up to that point, we had only been allowed to plan in-school activities in the month of September.  During a President’s Council meeting (a gathering of Student Council leaders across Hamilton), which I attended while I was still President, someone suggested having a city-wide high school dance.  I thought it was a great idea but all of our Student Councils had to approve this proposal during meetings before plans could get underway.  I took it to Council and, shockingly, the majority didn’t want anything to do with this.  Here we were, 2 and a half months into the school year, and we finally had an opportunity to plan something for the students, and the idea, a perfectly good one, was nixed.  (Other Councils followed suit and the dance never happened.) Thankfully, the Council did put something together strictly for Delta students, after I resigned. 
 
For years, Delta, like a lot of high schools, put on these Air Band competitions.  You know the deal.  You get a group of teenagers up there, mime to a song and hopefully, it’s funny or at the very least, entertaining. 
 
During an afternoon in early December the Student Council managed to put together an Air Band competition in the afternoon.  Students love being taken out of class for any reason and naturally, they welcomed this.  I remember sitting in the audience with my friends when Jason Wadden (who was dating Heather, the hot VP, at the time) came on stage and did his thing for the activity-starved student body.  He started by talking about the problems the Student Council were having and that there had been a change at the top.  His manner was cryptic yet diplomatic which was a classy thing to do.  It’s tough to go up there and try not to ruffle any feathers.  (It shouldn’t be a surprise to me that he’s a lawyer now.) 
 
He didn’t mention that I had resigned, or that the other VP was now President.  The official change became public in the Christmas 1992 issue of OMNIA, Delta’s student magazine.  How this was announced disgusted me and apparently, it offended others, too.
 
On page 9, right beside the second half of my review of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was an ad for the "New Executive Council".  There was a new President, Vice-President and Secretary.  Some people were promoted and one person who came a distant third in the Presidential Election suddenly found herself in the Executive branch.  Not exactly democratic, is it?  The one bright spot:  angry guy was out.  I have no idea why and I don’t remember if he quit or was forced out.  (I’m pretty sure he quit.)  Like myself, I guess he couldn’t take it anymore.  (My last encounter with him occurred late in the school year.  He said, "Hi!" as we were passing each other and I snubbed him.  Man, was he pissed.  After all those horrible things he said about me and the appalling manner in which he criticized me, I felt that giving him the silent treatment was the perfect way to fight back.  After that brief encounter, I never had to deal with him again.  It’s been 13 years since I last saw him and I hope never to face that two-faced prick ever again.)
 
Why they felt the need to rub it in my face like that I’ll never understand.  But there was more.  In the Thank You section, the Student Council was thanked for "overcoming the hurdle".  I circled it when I saw it, it made me so angry.  But, typical me, I never addressed this to the Executives.  I’ve never been very good with confrontation and so, after telling my friends how I felt, I tried to move on.
 
I remember the first General Council meeting I attended after resigning (and before the official published announcement).  When Big G (the VP with the most votes in the election who got promoted to President) called the meeting to order, people were shocked, believe it or not.  Janet Pickup, the lovely G.A.C. representative, wanted to know what happened right then and there.  I declined discussing the matter with her and anybody else who brought it up, especially in a meeting like this.  There seemed to be a collective sense in this classroom we were gathered in that no matter how much they poked and prodded, I wasn’t going to open up to them, so they never bothered to learn more about what happened.  Looking back, I should’ve organized a private meeting and spilled my guts, but I didn’t think to do that at the time.  As always, I let my emotions (my irrational fear, in particular) rule my decision making process.  (Then again, I was too depressed to talk about this.)  The General Council members deserved a full explanation.  They never got one.
 
When Big G took over the meetings, the Executives made a change that still baffles me.  When I ran the meetings I just stood at the blackboard in front of a desk, like a teacher would, and the Council members would be sitting in desks arranged in vertical rows facing me, like students would.  With Big G in charge, the Executives decided to turn their desks around (and placed in front of the President) so they would be facing the other Council members.  Gee, that’s not intimidating.  I don’t know how long they stuck with that plan but it was stupid.  Like I’ve said many times, I was a very bad Student Council President, but even I didn’t do stupid things like this.
 
As 1992 became 1993, the biggest controversy of the year took place.  We were still in the middle of a terrible caretakers’ strike and the clueless fools in the Executive thought they knew exactly how to stop it.
 
President Big G and the Executive Council decided to contact The Hamilton Spectator to talk about a protest they were hoping to organize.  Unfortunately, they failed to inform the General Council.  As a result, all hell broke loose.  Most offended of all was Janet Pickup and she had a very good reason to be pissed with these clowns.  Her father was one of the striking caretakers.  (Oops.)  During an emergency meeting, Janet did what I should’ve done months earlier.  She ripped into the Executives with so much fiery bluster that she became my new hero.  At one point, she was so disgusted she stormed out of the meeting.  I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle to myself.  As bad as I was, I never did anything to offend the G.A.C. representative.  That would’ve been political suicide.  What they did was inexcusable and grossly out-of-line.  It was the worst political screw-up made by any Student Council President during that dreadful school year.
 
In the end, when things calmed down, Big G learned his lesson and it was during a General Council meeting that a motion was put on the floor to carry out this dopey protest.  For once, I showed some balls.  I was the only one who voted against the motion which carried easily.  (I remember getting some respect from Council members for that decision.) 
 
My feelings have not changed about this over the years.  I felt then, as I do now, that it wasn’t the Student Council’s business to mediate disputes between The Hamilton Board Of Education and the caretakers’ union.  What could we possibly do to bring both sides together?  Answer:  nothing.  My view was to stay out of it and make sure that students weren’t using this strike as an excuse to trash the school so it could be closed due to unsanitary conditions.  (Some did try but they never got very far.  Secretly, The Board had weekend cleaners come in to make sure the school never got too dirty.)  I felt the Council should be neutral on this matter and I still believe that was the right call.  One stupid public comment by a Student Council President could possibly set back negotiations. 
 
The sad thing is the Executives got their way anyway and they organized a Day Of Protest in January 1993.  It was unbelievably lame.  Their idea of protesting was to wear dust masks and gloves for an entire school day.  They looked ridiculous.  Few participated.  True, we had asbestos problems over the years but please, the living atmosphere of Delta Secondary was never so bad that fame-seeking student politicians had to resort to overwrought (and unsuccessful stunts) like this. 
 
I remember the picture of the Executives wearing dust masks in the Spectator.  I hated that picture and resented that my good friend, Shane, went along with this pathetic charade.  I remember just carving into that picture with a sharp, jagged object.  I’d known Shane for years and it offended me that he went along with this.  Fortunately, we stayed friends beyond high school and this foolish incident was left in the past.
 
Near the end of the year, Big G wrote a brief "President’s Report" column for OMNIA’s 1993 Grad Issue, where he tried to spin the failed campaign into something historians wouldn’t soon forget:  "When the [caretakers’] strike threatened to destroy every last ounce of spirit, we banded together in protest and helped bring the strike to an end."  It should be noted that the strike went on for another 2 months, proving that the protest had zero impact.  And, like I said, few people wore gloves and dust masks that day.  The vast majority of participants were Council members.  Of the roughly 1000 or so students that attended school that day, I would say maybe 20-30 people took part in this bullshit.  In other words, there was no school spirit to destroy.  It was already dead.
 
As for me, I was permanently disillusioned with Council.  I regularly attended meetings in the early part of 1993 but had little input.  I remained mostly silent and had little to do.  It was a ceremonial position that had no meaning for me or anyone on Council.  In late January, not too long after the misguided protest, I thought about boycotting the Council for good.  There was no place for me there and things weren’t getting any better. 
 
I started skipping meetings and anticipated an encounter with Big G over it.  I practised how it would go and amazingly, it went exactly as I thought. 
 
He approached me in the hallway asking, "Why haven’t you been at the meetings lately?"
 
"Oh, I’m not on the Student Council anymore," came the reply.
 
And with that, he walked away and I felt a tremendous sense of relief. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
5:40 p.m.
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Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 6:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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