Seasoned residents are not the only ones taking notice of city government and its plans for the future. Students from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University are also sitting in the council chambers to gain an awareness of city happenings. It’s nice to see them there. They are residents and should be there. It doesn’t matter if their stay is temporary. Their expressed interest in their local government – despite their brief stay – is commendable. Long-term residents should take note.
Representatives from the college and university have student government liaisons who attend city-council meetings. They might not attend every meeting but they are consistent. They sit alongside reporters taking notes on council decisions and witnessing how those decisions will affect the city. Sometimes the students are the only ones attending, besides local media. That should not be the case. More residents should take a lesson from the students and show up at meetings other than just those meetings with scheduled public hearings on the agenda.
During the April 4 council meeting, council member Steve Frank observed a student from CSB in the audience. Frank told elected officials he thought it was a good idea students were attending the meetings. He also suggested one council member attend student government meetings to expand the city’s interaction with students. Yes, students might volunteer for some city events, but there’s not much interaction beyond that, it seems.
While it was merely a suggestion, it was a good one that would provide multiple benefits. For students attending city council meetings, it offers insight into the local government process. For city officials who would attend student government meetings, it would allow access to the student perspective in St. Joseph and provide a greater awareness of student leadership.
St. Joseph is not the only city to think about the student perspective. The City of Sauk Rapids once implemented a student mayor-of-the-month program for high-school students. Participants in the student-mayor program toured city hall, met with the mayor and other city officials, and attended council meetings.
Student interaction is a plus for local government. The city should explore the option of expanding that interaction, even if it starts by simply attending a student meeting.