Illustration by Shahd Nigim.

Peeking Behind The Curtain: Working in StuGov

I decided to join StuGov in my first-year. I had several reasons for doing so, but I would be lying if I did not admit to the fact that my curiosity about the functioning behind the committee was one of them.

May 9, 2022

As a nerdy highschool kid, there was one rite of passage activity that left a really bad taste in my mouth: student government. Most, if not all, of the positions that I held were largely symbolic, with me having to fight tooth and nail to convince school staff that throwing an event, for instance a movie night, was not the end of the world. This lack of trust from administration, and the consequent lack of motivation from members, was the same attitude that I had towards the student government here at NYU Abu Dhabi when I joined the student body this fall.
Before filling out that fateful google sheet and beginning my work with Student Government, or ‘StuGov’ as it is referred to affectionately, much of their inner workings remained a mystery to me. Though I had attended a couple of events held by StuGov in the fall of 2021, I had very little knowledge of what the actual role of each committee was, who the members were, and how to actually contact them (besides stalking their socials). This did strike me as odd; given the large amount of funding and scope of acting that these committees had, I would have expected a lot more transparency from them. Additionally, given the number of institutional decisions that happened in the fall, for instance the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, I would have expected much more communication between them and the student body in order to be more representative of our opinions to administration.
During our extended winter break I decided to join StuGov in my freshman semester to fulfill my duty as a Global Leader™. I had several reasons for doing so, including my passions about the specific committees that I applied to, but I would be lying if I did not admit to the fact that my curiosity about the actual functioning behind the committees was one of them. I did end up being accepted to a couple of committees, and took the roles that I thought I would serve well in. My experiences in each committee were, predictably, very different.
There are endless meetings and talks about how to genuinely improve, as well as how to best use resources to create events and programs that are meaningful. For instance, Programming Board’s (PB’s) open mic nights have been a great stress reliever by letting students scream their lungs out during karaoke while also giving a voice to some of our most talented students. Additionally, there is the Diversity Committee’s goal of attempting to collect data on where the school is falling short to promote greater inclusivity. There definitely is a sense of community, and a lot of motivation to leave your mark and rise up to the standards that had been set by those who came before you. This was a stark contrast to my highschool days, and did really push me to also help out in any way that I can, which included writing up reports, helping with communications and, the most difficult task of all, picking what to order off of Deliveroo (choosing donuts is a job that I take very seriously). The events that I helped put on were also all definitely incredibly memorable, and I have enough merch and polaroids of PJ Day to remember them for a lifetime.
Yet, despite all the good, there were a couple of things that I really did not expect. A large chunk of your time and effort needs to go into these projects, which put considerable pressure on my already heavy schedule. Obviously I continue to do it because I believe in what StuGov can do, and I did expect a significant workload coming in. What I did not expect, however, was the disconnect between such an integral part of the school and the administration.
There appears to be an issue with the communication between members of StuGov and the administration. In the handful of Zoom meetings that I did get to attend, there was a noticeable disconnect between admin and StuGov, where administrators appeared to believe that StuGov demands too much, and does not grasp the limitations of the positions that we occupy. However, I have found that as a member of the StuGov I feel as though the school’s administration is not as responsive to the students’ needs and demands as they probably should be. These issues tend to result in communication complications, but there has been a significant effort to bridge these gaps and improve the relationships between the two entities to overall improve the functioning of StuGov.
So will I continue to work with the Student Government? Yes, I definitely will; this experience has been a ton of fun. Should you? Also yes, it definitely is something that will push you to grow as a person, and will help you get out of your shell and engage with the community. Just be sure to pick something that you are passionate about, and to not be afraid to really step up and stick your neck out for something that you believe in.
Malak Elmallah is Deputy Features Editor. Email her at
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