Student Government Operations Archive


REVIEW: "THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW:      The Education Shelf:           

Now in a newly updated, reorganized and expanded ninth edition, "The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" by Henry Landa (formerly with the Wisconsin Technical College System and currently adjunct faculty member , University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) is a definitive, comprehensive, and thoroughly "user-friendly" instructional reference on every aspect [of] student government and activities from candidate selection, to leadership styles, to organizational configuration, to the role of faculty advisors. 

"The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" will show aspiring and practicing student government members on "what-to-do", "how-to-do-it", and "why-you-do-it" issues and insights that range from "Candidacy & Campaigning" (of special note is the role of the campaign manager and the necessity of winning office), to "Leadership" (dealing with authority and the art of delegation), to "Management" (organizational generalities, techniques, and [the] education institution bureaucracy); "Offices and Officers" (descriptions and definitions, operational guidelines and tricks-of-the-trade); "Advisors" (students making use of advisors and guidelines for advisors).  

"The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" is enhanced with the further inclusion of a Readers and Reference chapter, a Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations, and an Appendix of six-five articles offering techniques, detail, and "obscure topics" of factors and issues that can make or break a student government officer. 

"The Political Handbook For Student Government Operations" is virtually unique in the field and should be considered a critically important core reference for all college and university library Student Government reference and resource collections."


How to order The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations, directly from the publisher

List price is $42.50 (soft cover, but with a sewn (not glued) binding); postpaid from FICOA: 

The Library (hardcover) binding carries a list price of $63.90; postpaid from FICOA: 

This book carries a money-back guarantee when purchased directly from FICOA.      


Send the check or money order to: FICOA, 5928 W. Michigan St., Wauwatosa*, WI 53213-4248

Make check or money order out to "FICOA"

*Wauwatosa is a close-in suburb of the City of Milwaukee.


Excerpts from The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations, 11th Edition (2007)            ISBN 0-931974-21-6

What is Student Government? ( Chapter I 3)

  A general conception of student government consists of a classroom full of students imitating, on a small scale, the Congress of the United States.

  While this parliamentary aspect of student government is quite correct, the entire activity is much broader in scope. Student government is not, solely, an exercise in parliamentary procedure. It can and should reflect the three branches of American government and the Fourth Estate*, the Press.

  Having said all that, there is a fifth element in this system: the faculty advisor.

*The concept of the American system of governance includes three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The "Fourth Estate" term does not suggest a fourth branch, but comes from an historic view of Britain's system where there existed a reporter's gallery in Parliament. This body of journalists was said to influence public policy on an equal basis to the commonwealth's three traditional estates: the clergy, the nobility, and [The House of] Commons.

The Legislature

  This is a body of law-makers, usually elected, which represents the student body, as a whole. It is a deliberative body of students to make, change, or repeal the laws and acts of the student government. As such, it can create, modify, or destroy activities and organizations under its charter. The charter being defined as the right to exist and function, within limits.     [The balance of this section is abridged.]

The Executive

  The executive branch consists of all of the officers of the entire student organization. It does not include, only, the traditional top four officers i.e., the president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary.

  Following is a survey of the various types of organizations and typical officers having executive responsibility and authority.

  Parliaments:   President,   Vice President,   Treasurer,   Recording Secretary,   Corresponding Secretary,   Sergeant-at-Arms,   Parliamentarian

  Administrative Arms of the Student Government Organization:   Business Manager,   Accountant,   Social Events Secretary

  Clubs:   President,   Vice President,   Treasurer,   Recording Secretary,    Corresponding Secretary,   Various operations managers

  Operating Units / Service Committees, Societies, or Co-ops:    Chairperson,   Vice Chairperson,   Treasurer,   Recording Secretary,   Corresponding Secretary,   Administration Manager,   Membership Manager,   Operations Manager,   Publicity Manager,   Personnel Manager

  The above  list of executive positions may be added to or subtracted from, depending upon the scope and needs of the particular organization.  The executive officers have responsibility and authority. They are the doers; persons of thought and of action. Here is the training ground, in school, for management. 

[It is worthwhile to consult the "O" section of the PHB/SGO, "Offices and Officers" to get a reading on the full range of officers in an (student) organization ... the "O" section has [brace yourself] forty-six (46!) officer positions listed and discussed at length; starting with "President or Chairperson" (O 2) on down through "Inspector General" (O 47).]


The Judicial

  Many student governments do not have a judicial branch. In those S.G.O.'s, that have an identifiable judicial entity, it may be called, "Judicial Committee", "Student Court", or "Judicial Board". But, it may not be a true judiciary.

  The functions of these groups will vary widely. A close look at what they are chartered to do will define whether they are truly judicial. These functions have included:

    Recommending and formulating rules and laws for consideration and adoption by the Parliament. If this is the only function of a judicial committee or board, the that group is, truly, a "Rules" subcommittee and is not a judicial unit;

    Trying violations of the organization's or school's rules and imposing penalties;

    Making judicial law and interpreting the laws and rules of the organization.

  The actions of the student judiciary are normally confined to minor offenses. The major infractions of school regulations are reserved, in judgment, for school officials. The offenses dealt with by student judiciary include parking violations, dress code violations, poor sportsmanship, and often ill-defined breaches of the peace, that are mainly attributable to youthful exuberance ( "Gee, Mr. Smith, it seemed like a good idea at the time." ).

  The action and tenor of student court decisions varies widely from harshness to amused leniency.


the Press

  "All the news that's fit to print."   -  Motto of The New York Times, Adolph Simon Ochs

  Most schools have a newspaper. Some have a short-range or locally-wired and student-operated radio station. If these are to be more that entertainment, then they may be defined as "the Press". As such, "the Press" can be of great value to the S.G.O. and, of course, to the student-citizen.

  Remember the First Amendment. But, there are limitations.

  It is expected that the politician keep constituents fully and honestly informed. This is not likely to happen due to limitations of personality and time available. Therefore, the press can and should inform the citizenry of the actions of their government.

  The student newspaper faculty advisor, in the position of publisher, plays a crucial role.


The Faculty Advisor

  The faculty advisor is a person of varying influence not unlike a constitutional monarch ... overseeing and advising without legal or technical power: a person having moral authority.  The skilled and effective faculty advisor, using personal power, can be expected to do the following:

    Provide guidance, on an individual and organizational basis;

    Provide advice - of all kinds;


    Assist in organizing;

    Provide a sensible, but not overbearing brake on youthful exuberance;

    Provide a moderating force on immature, bad judgment and poor taste;

  Erect warning signals regarding courses of action which will likely lead to trouble;

    Establish and maintain liaison with higher authority.   [End of Chapter I 3]



Appendix A 2

Six Questions

  In any system of governance, there are six questions which must be addressed by the leadership of any organization:

              (f) Do you have the authority to innovate?

(2) From whom do you get your power?

    (a) Was it conferred by higher authority or is it derived from below?

    (b) Is it broadly-based or is it based upon a clique?

    (c) Is it based upon election or appointment?

(3) How do you exercise your power? 

    (a) Are you an active or passive leader?

    (b) Are you an autocrat or a democrat?   Is your style of leadership authoritarian or democratic-participative?

    (c) Do you believe in a narrow ideology or the "Big Tent"?

    (d) Is your management style productive and satisfying to those whom you are supposed to lead?

(4) In whose interests is that power exercised?

    (a) Are you acting for a party?

    (b) A clique? An elite?

    (c) A small or large minority?

    (d) A controlling majority?

    (e) Special interests?

    (f) All citizens?

(5) To whom are you accountable?

    (a) A clique?

    (b) A party, only?

    (c) Is a system of checks and balances present?

    (d) Does the system have transparency (so that constituents and/or members can keep track of what you are doing?)

(6) How can we get rid of you?

    (a) Length of term?

    (b) Term limits? [A maximum limit on the number of terms which may be served]

    (c) Recall?

    (d) Vote of confidence?

    (e) Rotation in office?

    (f) Are rules of tenure written into a constitution? And, is that constitution widely recognized and enforced?


Appendix A 17

Leadership Characteristics

  Here are two lists from renowned authors and keen observers of politics and organization of what it takes to be a successful leader. [The author-editor merges these thoughts and adds his own "two cents worth" and offers a third list below.] The first list is from Robert Dallek's Hail to the Chief*:

1. Vision

2. Pragmatism [see Machiavelli]

3. Consensus

4. Charisma

5. Character / Trust [Credibility]

  Lord C. Northcote Parkinson, famous for his "Laws", offers these seven points from his The Law of Delay*:

1. Imagination

2. Knowledge

3. Ability

4. Vision

5. Determination

6. Ruthlessness

7. Attraction [Charisma as defined contemporarily]

  By taking items from both lists and adding more, based on the editor's personal opinion, we have this combined list of Leadership Characteristics:

1. Ability

2. Character / Trust [Credibility]

3. Knowledge

4. Vision  [There's that "Vision thing, again!"]

5. Pragmatism

6. Humanity

7. Consensus [Either bringing a consensus with you to the office or the ability to build a consensus around your program.]

8. Determination [Drive] 

9. Imagination and an Open Mind

10. Ruthlessness [The ability to make hard decisions and carry them out, even at the cost of hurting old friends. Ruthlessness does not include being vicious or mean.]

11. Creativity

12. Charisma [Handy, but not always necessary.]

13. Political skill in the larger sense of understanding both the technical or procedural methodology as well as the psychological aspects.

14. Managerial and administrative skill.

*See section R-1, Readings and References (in The PHB/SGO-V) for brief reviews. 

The use of brackets, " [  ] ", indicates interpretation or comment by editor (hcl).



Excerpts from the Appendix section, A 7, Negative Campaigning

"Give 'em Hell, Harry!" - from a member of the crowd at a whistle-stop.

"I don't give 'em Hell,     I just tell the truth,    and they think it's Hell."  - President Harry Truman during the 1948 whistle-stop campaign


"If the Republicans stop telling lies about us, we will stop telling the truth about them."  -  Adlai Stevenson 

Lobbying    (an abridgement of chapter C 9)

"Lobbying is the art of the possible."   - Tom Rice, Chief Lobbyist of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce

"Ten persons who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent." - Napolean I

Lobby: [as noun] in houses of legislature, a large entrance-hall open to the public. which is chiefly used for interviews between members (of the legislature) and non-members.

Lobbyist: one who frequents the lobby of a legislature in order to influence members in their votes. In student governance, the lobbyist is, normally, not a "hired gun", but the student leader. In addition, members of the organization may also lobby to promote their common interests.

"Influence is not government." -George Washington

"Lobbying is declared to be a crime." - Constitution, State of Georgia, 1877

Lobbying is to things as campaigning is to a candidate. These "things" may be a change in a policy, a rule or law change, an expenditure for a project, program, or budget item. Lobbying at any level is a fact of life and the student government leader must master it.  [The term "proposal" will hereinafter be used to identify all of the above items, e.g. policies, rules, laws, projects, programs, etc.]

[other content of this section follows, but the topics are merely listed]

Direct or Indirect Lobbying

Some Verbs

The Surrogate Lobbyist

Preparation (for lobbying; or what the "Compleat Lobbyist" knows)

"The readiness is all"  - William Shakespeare, Hamlet


Excerpt from the Appendix, A 22,  

Transition: Coming In; Going Out

Transition: the movement or passage from one position, administration, or leadership to another;  the interim process of passing leadership from the outgoing officers and managers to those coming into those positions.

The concept of  an orderly and organized process of changing political leadership reached the public in late 1960 when President-Elect John F. Kennedy appointed a "Transition Team".

The process of transition, within the student organization, centers on the transfer of information:

    What to do,

    When to do it,

    How to do it, 

    Who to see, etc.

    and hopefully, Why you do it.

    And, what assets are owned or accessed and how to use these assets.

The faculty advisor must play a major role by informing the outgoing leadership of its responsibilities and informing the incoming leadership of the process of transition.

Three Viewpoints

(1) The Incoming Leadership: "I don't even know what I don't know!"

The transition task is to, tactfully and diplomatically, extract all of the useful information necessary to properly run the organization from the outgoing officers, particularly from your predecessor. It is also desirable (if you are a progressive sort of manager) to ascertain projects and operations that were on the outgoing officer's wish list and areas that need improvement. [Very few good managers are complacent and self-satisfied.]

(2) The Outgoing Leadership: "How can I help? Here's what I've learned. He (or She) is the person to see. Here are the records and correspondence. Here's the budget. Here are the operating manuals. Do you have any questions? Here's where I can be contacted in case something comes up." Etc.

Outgoing officers fall into two categories: (a) Those who are happy to go, i.e. to move on and have friendly feelings towards the incoming officers and (b) those (possibly the defeated incumbents or opponents) that hold a degree of animosity. There is a duty, here, to the organization by these outgoing officers to perform in an honorable and responsible manner. To do any less than that, in practical terms, will reflect badly upon those who appear to be uncooperative. Past feelings must be set aside ... there must be both the illusion and the reality of full cooperation.

(3) The Faculty Advisor: A Referee; a Mediator; a Conciliator; a Mentor;  the Go-Between. The advisor must recognize the lack of knowledge and sophistication by both of the above-mentioned groups. As soon as possible, after the election, the advisor should counsel both groups, individually and collectively, on conducting an effective and efficient transition ... and an amicable one.

[Three (3) more pages of text follows, but herein, are abridged.]

Background Information

Transfer of information; the detail  ["The Devil is in the Details!"]

Some public relations advice

an anecdote [of a typical transition]

end of A 22 excerpt


February  2010

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