After seeing CIS plastered with posters advertising Student Council teams, we decided to conduct an investigation to see how many sheets of paper were used for Student Council campaigns and what percentage of these posters had ideas for improving the school. We conducted this investigation by starting on the top floor of the school and systematically working our way down to the carpark, recording data on all the posters we saw along the way. Our results showed that a total of over 1700 sheets of A4 paper were used for promoting Student Council teams and of these, only 27% of them were judged to have “content” (read on for clarification of the term). The results of this investigation demonstrate the need for attention in reforming student council elections to be less about posters and more about substantial ideas.
In one week, the walls of CIS have been buried under rows of brightly coloured sheets of paper that seem to advertise nothing more than mere numbers. One can hardly walk from one class to another without being bombarded with clever puns that constantly outdo one another in a competition to see who can think of the most creative way to integrate the number in a different context. X Factor! C Force! Infinite Possibilities! Yes, Student Council campaigning week has arrived again.
Over the years, Student Council elections seem to have become less about thinking of ideas to help the school and more about finding the easiest way to make your team known. For many, the easiest way to do this is to flood the school with so many posters of your team number that students have your number permanently etched into their minds.
This superficial tradition of CIS not only unnecessarily damages the environment, but also exposes the shallow nature of the school’s Student Council elections. It has become increasingly more about eye-catching posters and flashy videos than about representing students in improving the school as a whole.
The consequences of such a tradition led to our decision to systematically count all the Student Council posters in the school and examine the results in terms of the team number, and the contents of each poster.
This report will include the methodology of our investigation, the results from our data, our comments on the data, an evaluation on our method, and suggestions for future Student Council campaigns.
Classification of Posters
For the purposes of this investigation, posters “without content” are defined as those without substantial ideas related to improving the school. These include posters that advertise the team number and posters that promote listening to what students want. Posters “with content” are defined as those with ideas of what the team plans to do if they are elected.
The results of this investigation can potentially be misleading so please take the time to read the paragraph below to minimize confusion or misunderstanding:
This investigation was carried out to qualitatively examine the emphasis, or lack thereof, put on incorporating ideas for improvements in the school, and also to quantitatively examine the environmental impact of Student Council elections in terms of the amount of paper used in the advertising process. While it may be used as a factor in choosing which team to vote for, it should be kept in mind that a team with many “content posters” does not necessarily have many different, or good and practical ideas, nor does it mean that that they will be a strong Student Council. Additionally, it cannot be assumed that teams without “content posters” do not have any ideas for improving the school, merely that these ideas were not advertised to the student body through posters.
Please do not use the data published in this investigation as the sole basis for choosing a Student Council team to vote for.
The fieldwork for our investigation took place in the Secondary side of the Chinese International School from 3:00pm to 5:20pm on a Friday afternoon, August 26th of 2011. This was the last day of our first week back to school also the Student Council campaigning week.
During our fieldwork of data collection, we began on the 9th floor and made our way down through the secondary side of the school. We counted the posters in bathrooms, along stairways, in both common rooms, inside the block 1 building, in the carpark and on the walls of corridors. We did not count any posters inside classrooms, in the upper and lower gyms, in the auditorium, along the staircase leading to the lower gym or along the staircase behind the first block. We filled in our tally sheets (See Appendix A) according to the team number, the size of the poster and the whether or not the poster had any substantial content.
In our final results, the A3 posters were counted as two A4 sheets of paper. A5 posters were counted as half a sheet of A4 paper.
(See Appendix B for Raw Data)
The graph above depicts the number of sheets of A4 paper each running Student Council team used for their poster campaign.
This chart shows the percentage of posters that had content and the percentage that did not have content.
The results of this investigation show that 1737 sheets of A4 of paper were used in the poster campaigns of CIS Student Council teams. While we counted 539 posters (27%) with some sort of content, 1134 posters (73%) did not have any content. (See above for our clarification of “content” and “no content”.) That there are over 2.5 times as many posters without content than posters with content is indicative that the focus of running teams is on getting their names out there, and less of conveying real ideas.
- Team C used blue tac to post their posters while all the other groups used masking tape
- We also counted 17 “X”s (team X) made out of duct tape around the school. These were not included as sheets of paper in our results.
Our Subjective Comments
From observing and then counting by hand the obscene amount of posters plastered across our school walls, we might predict that running teams believe that more posters means higher publicity which means they will have a higher chance of winning Student Council elections. Student Council elections in our school are becoming less and less about substance and more about mass advertisement, which is carried out via flashy posters and videos. It is especially ironic to see posters advocating environmental responsibility, with the colored words placed neatly at the center of yet another sheet of the masses of A3 paper engulfing our school in a sea of superficial advertisements.
Evaluation of Experiment
Were we to repeat this investigation, there are multiple aspects in which we could improve its accuracy:
We could look inside all classrooms and other places we did not go to see if any posters have been put up.
We could also carry out more trials in counting the posters by having multiple people tally their own count of the number of posters they see, and then finding the average of their results. This will minimize the almost unavoidable albeit minimal inaccuracy as a result of two tired teenagers spending 2.5 hours on a Friday afternoon counting posters.
We could come up with more specific categories of classification for posters to get a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of the Student Council posters.
Suggestions for Election Reform
To improve Student Council elections for the future, we suggest the following changes to Student Council campaigning methods:
Instead of wallpapering our school walls, each running Student Council team should have one board in a popular area, such as the courtyard of the third floor, where each team has the same amount of space to post information about their ideas, removing any perceived advantage of putting up more posters.
Instead of having posters as the main channel for conveying ideas, future Student Council elections should include an open forum where students can ask Student Council candidates questions and compare answers from different teams. This provides a means for an environmentally friendly two-way dialogue between candidates and students, effectively killing two birds with one stone.
This can be executed by having a designated area for Student Council campaigning and providing each team with a table or stall where students can find any campaigning team and have a discussion with its members. This gives the students a chance to interact with the candidates (one that currently does not formally exist), and gives candidates a chance to elaborate on some of their ideas and listen to suggestions from the student body.
Another idea is to allow online campaigning. Moongate has very much become an important aspect of interaction within our school community, and this should be extended to Student Council campaigns by providing a page for each team where they can provide a description of the team and team members. To prevent the elections from becoming about which team can create the flashiest graphics or web effects, we suggest that the content of these pages be limited to plain text.
While we understand that many presidential and other political elections may use flashy advertisements to promote themselves, we hope to minimize techniques of such superficial nature at CIS and preserve the integrity of our Student Council elections. The results clearly show that there is a need to reform the way Student Council elections at CIS are conducted and we hope that improvements will be made for next year’s election. We strongly urge the secondary leadership team and the student body to take steps to encourage election reform for the next school year.
Special thanks to
- Mr. Mulcahy, who suggested to us the idea of using bulletin boards for Student Council elections
- Jonathan Chan, who helped in the data recording process
- Benjamin Chasnov, who helped to edit this report
Appendix A – Tally Sheets
Appendix B - Data Table
EDIT: Due to mechanical error in digitalizing the messy tallies, there has been a slight miscalculation. Here are the corrections:
the number of “non-content” posters from team 7 is 439. This is 30 posters less than the stated 469.
This changes the total number of posters from 1737 to 1707,
the percentage of content : non content posters from 27% : 73% to 28%: 72%,
and the number of non content posters changes from 1264 to 1234
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