ASG Investigation Week: As Students Express Their Opinions on School Functions, ASG Defends Their Record on Transparency, Spirit, and More
In the final article in ASG Investigation Week, we cover ASG’s response on topics including transparency, spirit, and their impact on students.
February 5, 2021
When you walk through the hallways of Irvington High School, it is almost certain that you will interact with someone or something affiliated with Irvington’s Associated Student Government (ASG). From the morning announcements, to the picnic tables in the pavilion, the 56 student-strong ASG has had some impact on students the second they step on Irvington’s campus.
With distance learning though, it’s harder to see ASG in action beyond the few weekly social media posts and the occasional event. Publicity for ASG events normally starts a week, if not a few days, before the event occurs. A large majority of students don’t know what ASG is currently working on, and the meeting notes and budget on ASG’s website are outdated. There aren’t forms to measure student interest on events, and the majority of participants in ASG events seem to come primarily from ASG itself or from class councils.
In late December of 2020, the Irvington Voice conducted its first ever ASG evaluation survey with the goal of accurately gauging the student body’s opinions on ASG’s performance in order to shine a light on the ASG issues Irvington students care about. In total, we received 433 responses from students, after reaching out on social media, and asking teachers to share the survey with their classes.
All quantitative results can be found here; free response answers are available upon request via email.
For the majority of questions, students were to select their agreement to a statement on a scale of 1-5, from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
Many questions received a significant amount of students choosing the score 3, which signified that the student did not have enough information or experience to respond, or if the student felt neutral about the statement. For the purposes of clarity and to emphasize results from knowledgeable students, this percentage of neutral and/or uninformed students have not been mentioned in the article. To better represent the data, we have chosen to include the number of students that selected each response. Please note that the remaining percentages from the data referenced in the article are made up of these students.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
“Everyday we’re working to be more transparent, and tell students what we’ve been up to, but I tell students, rest assured, that time is not being wasted in ASG.”ASG President Ethan Chen
For the data on increasing transparency in ASG’s use of time, the results were fairly split, with 19.3% (84 students) agreeing with the statement “I believe that ASG has been transparent in their use of time,” and 23.3% (101 students) disagreeing. The remaining students felt neutral about the statement or did not have enough information to respond. Transparency has been a recurring theme with lots of ASG officers’ campaigns throughout the years. Specifically, ASG President-elect Nosheen Ullah pointed out that one of her key goals next year is increasing transparency within ASG committees. She wants all ASG students to be able to answer questions about the thought process behind ASG event ideas and decisions.
Chen also listed increasing transparency as a top goal during his presidential campaign.
When asked about how he increased transparency during his term, Chen responded by saying: “We did have a few IGTVs released on the IHS Blue Crew Instagram, and we had a few ASG representatives volunteer and create a quick one to two-minute clip about all the upcoming ASG events, and basically everyone in ASG was planning something, one or another,” Chen said. “We weren’t able to heavily focus on those bulletins that we posted on the IHS Blue Crew Instagram. We’re definitely bringing that back and revamping it for next semester next year.”
However, when the Irvington Voice looked into this claim, little has changed from last year. The latest IGTV was released on August 14 2020, and it recapped ASG’s Mask Drive. The IGTV before that was released on May 30 2020, which gave instructions on how students could use Irvington specific GIFs.
“We did have a few IGTVs released on the IHS Blue Crew Instagram, and we had a few ASG representatives volunteer and create a quick one to two minute clip about all the upcoming ASG events, and basically everyone in ASG was planning something, one or another,” Chen said. “We weren’t able to heavily focus on those bulletins that we posted on the IHS Blue Crew Instagram. We’re definitely bringing that back and revamping it for next semester next year.”
A concern in the responses of the evaluation form was that, as a large class of 56 students, it isn’t always apparent what ASG is doing, as the only thing students can see produced from ASG are a few events and flyers. Chen addressed this, giving a general overview of what ASG does on a day by day basis, beginning with committee updates and reminders to publicize for future ASG events. He also mentioned being more strict in grading for ASG members with the introduction of the Leadership Development section of the grade, where students read articles about developing empathy and a learning mindset.
“Everyday we’re working to be more transparent, and tell students what we’ve been up to, but I tell students, rest assured, that time is not being wasted in ASG,” Chen said.
“There’s documentation of everything that’s been happening, but I totally feel how it might seem like ASG is only doing a few things, especially when we have so much content on social media,” Chen said. “It’s sometimes hard to keep up with everything, but I promise you if you go through everything on social media, there’s a bunch of updates about everything that’s happening.”
According to Ullah, examples of this documentation included videos on homecoming themes, why it was postponed, and a recap video on ASG’s Mask Drive. Ullah also said ASG has been trying to update the status of their projects in order to demonstrate transparency, although it has been a challenge with not knowing when events would be held with the unpredictable conditions.
Some students hoped to hear more about what ASG is doing to increase transparency, including Lawrence Cheung (12), who stated, “please be transparent with how money is used and advertise events more.”
Another anonymous senior agreed, thinking that transparency would improve students’ perception of ASG.
“It usually feels like not much is being done, though I am sure they are working on things all the time,” the senior said. “As a result, since we can’t see their actions well, it feels like maybe they aren’t doing much for other students, even though they really may be. If they communicate their work more, people may be able to see all of the things they are doing on campus.”
School Spirit and Irvington’s Fifth Place in Winter Week
“If we did the best we could in [encouraging the student body to donate], that’s not a factor of not having school unity, because I think the parts that actually count for school unity, which is dress ups and social media, I think [in those categories] we did fairly well, [but] compared to some other schools like American and Mission, definitely, we could put our efforts towards increasing dress ups a little bit more.”ASG Vice President Nosheen Ullah
For the statement “I am satisfied with ASG’s ability to bring the school closer together,” 31.8% (138 students) agreed whereas 23.5% (102 students) disagreed. This statement sought to measure students’ perception of unity.
The question “Have you ever participated in a spirit day?” had 64.4% (279 students) saying yes, and 35.6% (154 students) responding no.
Through our survey, some students indicated that they wanted there to be more opportunities to show spirit.
“I’d like for there to be a lot more rallies and spirit days,” Vrushtee Shah (9) said. “The overall execution of them is really fun, but if we could have more that would be great.”
Others noted a drop in spirit day participation and suggested ways to increase participation. For example, one student suggested a contest or teachers giving extra credit to incentivize dressing up, something that teachers have been known to do in the past.
Another junior agreed, saying, “We need to get the entirety of the student body to get more involved and then we can have more spirit. Make it more competitive, make the students feel like they want to be there and go all out for their school, that’s what we need desperately.”
This year’s Winter Week, the annual school spirit competition, was held between the five Fremont high schools instead of three from previous years, with social media posts, dress ups, and donations making up the point totals. Mission San Jose High School won for a second year in a row, and Irvington dropped from its second place standing from last year to last place this year. Although Winter Week could be used as a gauge for school spirit and unity at a first glance, ASG Vice President Ullah pointed out that donations were where Irvington fell short.
“If we did the best we could in [encouraging the student body to donate], that’s not a factor of not having school unity, because I think the parts that actually count for school unity, which is dress ups and social media, I think [in those categories] we did fairly well,” Ullah said. “[But] compared to some other schools like American and Mission, definitely, we could put our efforts towards increasing dress ups a little bit more.”
ASG declined to provide the Irvington Voice specific data on Winter Week results, because the associated student body of the participating high schools stated that “it can get miscommunicated easily without the whole explanation of how each total came about.” As a result, we weren’t able to calculate how Irvington would have done with the donations factored out.
The Irvington Voice also learned that donations made up 25% of the point total, and dress ups and social media posting made up the remaining 75%. At the end of Winter Week, Irvington ended with 5620 points. The schools that placed first through third all scored 12,000 or more points, double Irvington’s final score.
While Mr. Willer addressed ASG’s efforts to build community during distance learning, he also mentioned what ASG has observed about the student body and spirit weeks.
“We’ve been doing some online spirit weeks, but we kind of haven’t wanted to push that too heavy, because the student body doesn’t really seem interested in doing spirit weeks right now,” Mr. Willer said. “And so we kind of want [to] respect what the school was looking for and wanting and trying to do more events.”
To see where Irvington might have fell short, we reached out to other schools. At the top of the podium, there was a 800 point difference between the first and third place schools.
Mission San Jose ASB President Ian Park (12) emphasized well roundedness when it came to Winter Week, as they were able to improve in social media posting later on in the week in time to surpass John F. Kennedy High School and earn first place.
“In terms of our strengths, we had a lot of dedicated students donating constantly to Meals on Wheels, which definitely [improved] our score,” Park said. “Mission also has a history of strong dress-ups, dating back to last year.”
Despite it being Kennedy’s first year participating in Winter Week, Kennedy High School ASB President Shelby Trainor (12) emphasized a factor to their second place position in Winter Week- high staff participation. Not only did a significant number of staff send in photos of themselves dressing up, they also encouraged their students to send in photos, donate, and post on social media.
Mr. Willer addressed staff participation in spirit weeks, saying, “I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied until we have 100% participation, I think that’s the real goal. That being said, I also kind of respect the fact that a lot of our staff is just really struggling on their own right now adapting to the change.”
American High School’s ASB President Bella Jiang (12) attributed their performance to a heavy emphasis on school events and rallies, a well-timed spirit week, and student culture, as students and staff actively get involved in events like Winter Week.
An anonymous senior recalls that distance learning may have contributed to Irvington’s loss during Winter Week and overall resulted in lower school morale, where they “did know about winter week but didn’t know when it was happening; publicity was also a lot lower than usual, [which] might have contributed to our loss.”
Aside from Winter Week, some students aren’t happy with ASG’s spirit events so far. 40.0% (173 students) agreed with the statement “I am satisfied with ASG’s spirit events” whereas 19.9% of students (86 students) disagreed.
“Most people felt unmotivated also since spirit weeks haven’t included exciting things that make our senior year our senior year,” the senior said. “For example, look at Mission. They at least had [homecoming] court, had a senior sunrise, had a lot of cool events even online over Zoom but at Irvington we kind of don’t know what’s going on.”
ASG’s Impact on Students and Event Attendance
“I feel like the Latin community at our school doesn’t get enough representation. I feel left out at school a lot, like I don’t fit in. [I hope that ASG includes] more representation of other cultures and to make everyone feel included.”Anonymous Respondent from the IHS Voice ASG Evaluation Survey
As a measure to see how ASG affects students, the Irvington Voice included a short response question on the survey asking students how ASG impacts them. A large fraction stated that ASG had little to no impact on their lives, others said clubs, and several stated that ASG creates events that they attend.
Some students did not see ASG as having a significant impact during their time at Irvington because they never held ASG to the height as other people did.
In the survey, 58.4% (253 students) had said they had never attended an ASG or Class Council organized event and 41.6% (180 students) had said they had.
“I do want to see more engagement, but I mean, we make many opportunities and spirit days. A lot of them are simple, like just wearing a specific kind of garment,” Chen said. “I don’t think it’s too hard to take a picture of yourself and post, but I think exploring incentives is definitely something we need to do in order to get that number up.”
Tied into the issues of event attendance during distance learning is the inability to reach out to students that have been isolated from the club scene. Compared to students listening to announcements during physical learning, it is much more difficult for ASG to reach out to students that don’t put themselves in the position to receive information about future events during distance learning, Mr. Willer said.
The events that ASG plans are based on the attendance they’ve seen in previous events. With most club events, it’s the same involved students that keep attending. However, after new students participated in the Among Us tournament, ASG decided to try encouraging these students to attend more ASG events by planning events geared to this demographic.
“We’re going to try and have some more gaming tournaments to reach out to people. We’re also looking at if we can find a coach starting an Esports league at Irvington high school,” Mr. Willer said. “So students can become a part of an Esports team, hoping that will open doors and allow new students to participate.”
ASG has long been involved in advocating in mental health and increasing representation. Chen pointed to the Vikings PULSE x Gen Up forum, where they discussed mental health, microaggressions, harassment, among other topics.
“We were able to change some curriculum, so have a more holistic curriculum for the English classes in some grades, so add more novels that students would have to read,” Chen said.
However, one anonymous respondent felt that there needed to be more work done to make sure that all students feel included.
“I feel like the Latin community at our school doesn’t get enough representation. I feel left out at school a lot, like I don’t fit in,” they said. “[I hope that ASG includes] more representation of other cultures and to make everyone feel included.”
Student Impact on ASG Decisions
“I think next year, even if we are online, we definitely need to make a better system of gaining feedback for our events and decisions.”ASG Vice President Nosheen Ullah
On the statement “I am satisfied with the extent to which the student body can influence ASG decisions,” 33.1% (143 students) agreed and 19.9% (86 students) disagreed. Ullah addressed this, mentioning forms they’ve sent out in the past to get student opinions on homecoming and winter week themes.
“This year, publicising a form is a lot harder than just asking like your peers in person,” Ullah said. “I think next year, even if we are online, we definitely need to make a better system of gaining feedback for our events and decisions.”
Another source of confusion in ASG decisions comes from what powers the executive council has, as compared to what their advisor Mr. Willer has. Mr. Willer explained his role, saying he only rejects decisions if they break the Education Code or if an idea needs more work, not simply because he isn’t in favor of it. Additionally, in the case that ASG students are split on a decision, he’ll bring up advice based on trends in the past. One example would be how the calendar shift next year would impact school events, as the Winter Rally and Winter Ball would fall right during finals. Mr. Willer would suggest guiding questions to the students to assist them in the planning process.
Transition to Virtual Learning
“I would like ASG to be more engaging with the student body. At some times, it feels like they are detached or even disinterested. It would be nice to have continual updates, especially in distance learning.”An Anonymous Junior from the IHS Voice Evaluation Survey
Although the digital divide might have interfered with ASG’s normal activities, 78.8% (190 students) of students from the evaluation form have a positive view of ASG, while the remaining 21.2% (51 students) have a negative view of ASG.
“I’m interpreting that as people are glad with the actions at ASG are taking and it’s sort of helping them with their student lives at Irvington,” Chen said. “Obviously, we want that more negative view, 21.2%, to go down as much [as possible], which is why we’re always planning new events and asking different ASG leaders to step up and be involved in the planning processes of events.”
One student who is satisfied with ASG’s actions so far is Ojas Brahme (11), who understands the difficulties that distance learning can bring.
“My perception of ASG is pretty positive,” Brahme said. “Lots of people I know are from ASG, and they are chill and fun to be around, but distance learning is not going to bring back the atmosphere that was there last year.”
For some freshmen, they appreciated ASG’s efforts to make them feel welcome in the Irvington community despite the pandemic, presumably because of LINK going on virtually.
An anonymous sophomore agreed, saying, “ASG handled [transitioning to distance learning] really well since they are still trying to involve people.”
In the form, 39.0% of students (169 students) agreed with the statement “I am satisfied with how ASG adapted with distance learning,” and 18.3% of students (79 students) disagreed, showing that the student body is generally content with how ASG dealt with the online transition.
However, not all students agreed with this. One student suggested that ASG should prioritize keeping in touch with the student body.
“I would like ASG to be more engaging with the student body. At some times, it feels like they are detached or even disinterested,” an anonymous junior said. “It would be nice to have continual updates, especially in distance learning.”
ASG Secretary Jonathan Wu (12) described a difficulty ASG faced early on while transitioning to virtual learning. Before the school year started, even the administration didn’t know what to do about events like MAZE day, until the week before it was planned. During that week, ASG had to work quickly and come up with new ideas to make sure it still went on smoothly and safely.
“I think we would’ve had more events if [distance learning] wasn’t the case,” Wu said. “Overall, in distance learning ASG is not necessarily stronger, especially in the sense that it might be a little more difficult for new members to adjust over Zoom.”
Rallies and Community
“I love the multicultural performances, the singers, the dances, the acrobatics, the karate demonstrations, all of that, I think they’ve been great. I think they’ve been great for school spirit.”Performing Arts Club Advisor Mr. Ballin
38.6% of students (167 students) agreed with the statement “I am satisfied with ASG’s planning and execution of rallies” while 19.8% of students (86 students) disagreed.
Some students said they were happy with the rallies in the past, but with virtual learning, it was difficult to discover when these events were taking place. In fact, one student stated that they never knew about events in advance, suggesting interactive events and more publicizing to help the disconnect.
Others enjoyed ASG’s rallies, including an anonymous sophomore, who said, “Last year when we did have [rallies], it was fun to get hyped up for each season, and I also looked forward to watching ICED, since I wanted to join the club. This year, I watched the LINK rally. It is cool that [ASG is] still getting clubs to perform.”
From a teacher’s perspective, Mr. Ballin, theater director and advisor of Performing Arts Club, would agree with the 38.6% of students who are content with ASG’s rallies.
“It’s a small gym, but I think that the shows themselves have been phenomenal,” Mr. Ballin said. “I love the multicultural performances, the singers, the dances, the acrobatics, the karate demonstrations, all of that, I think they’ve been great. I think they’ve been great for school spirit.”
Not only does he enjoy the acrobatics, he enjoys the diversity that comes with students of different ethnicities coming together to perform. The absence of new, exhilarating performances comes hand in hand with the isolation of students. Students are feeling the negative impacts of nearly a year of not seeing friends, and teachers feel the same way, but are optimistic for the future.
“I can tell you how much I miss seeing my fellow faculty members on campus and just bopping around,” Mr. Ballin said. “We do have a community of teachers and we do like each other and we like to see each other and we miss each other. Being isolated like this has damaged that sense of community, but I imagine that it will come back gangbusters once we get back to school.”