The history of student government at UIndy

The March 8, 2006 Reflector front page features a story about the Indianapolis Student Government (then called the student government for the University of Indianapolis) raising student fees by $25. Although ISG is not a presence at the university anymore, UIndy has had student governments in many forms since the 1940s. 

Graphic by: Hannah Hadley | News Editor

According to the 1947 edition of the Oracle, UIndy’s former yearbook, student government began on Indiana Central College’s (now UIndy) campus during September 1946. The Oracle states the Student Council replaced the “Student-Faculty Council.”

However, according to the 1950 edition of the Oracle, student government began in October 1944. The 1948 Oracle supports the 1950 edition’s claims. The editors of the Oracle dedicated the 1950 edition to the young campus student government.

“With sincere pride and appreciation we dedicate the 1950 Oracle to the work of the Student Council in the six years since its initiation in October, 1944, and to the future progress of this instrumental and democratic body,” the dedication states. “Encouraged by the cooperation of the faculty and administration, particularly by the confidence in which President Esch has shown in it, the Student Council has grown into a mature governing body aware of its opportunities and responsibilities. As the sounding board for all students’ griefs, the Student Council acts as [an] effective go-between for the administration and student body. Some of its actions in the past include: scheduling organization meetings, scheduling of activities, obtaining equal representation on the chapel planning committee, and setting rules for the freshmen initiation. Its present project—the provision for a student recreation lounge is now under way.”

The May 31, 1957 issue of The Reflector contains a front-page story detailing the year’s student council election results. Evolving from its previous individual election process, students split into two parties to run. Students would then vote for a slate of officers using a straight-party ticket, according to the article. According to the 1951 student handbook, a president, vice-president, two at-large representatives and a secretary (the addition of a secretarial position was a change from the original 1944 and early 50s format) were elected. 

Then-student-president-elect John Todd said in the article: “We want to do for the student body what the student body wants to be done. I feel it’s a big responsibility and I would like for the students to feel their responsibility and let us know what they want done.”

The 1961 Oracle outlines the campus student council and student court’s purposes.

“The Student Council works behind the scenes to create more efficient cooperation between the students and the administration,” the Oracle’s description of Student Council states. “It sponsors such events as homecoming, Brown County day, the formal reception, and a number of chapel programs. Furnishing the recreation room and the lounges have been projects of the council. Within the Student Council is the Student Court which consists of a chief justice and five justices. The purpose of the court is to deal with student disciplinary problems.” 

A year later, ICC’s student handbook for the 1962-1963 school year places the college’s student government under the clubs and activities section. 

“The Student Council is the student government organization of Indiana Central College, meetings of which are open to all students,” the 1962-1963 student handbook states. “Each spring an election is held in which the student body chooses the president, vice-president, secretary, and two representatives at large. In addition, each campus organization selects one of its members to serve on the council.”

The handbook details how the student council allows students to voice their opinions, and how the Student Supreme Court serves as the judicial body for students. It ends with campaign and election requirements and states that students had to vote straight-party in primaries but could vote a split ticket in the general election. 

The June 1, 1962 issue of The Reflector mentions class officers serving on the student council in addition to executive council members.

In 1972, a student claimed that the “Central Council” student government election was “unconstitutional” and demanded a revote, according to the April 10, 1972 issue of The Reflector. The Student Supreme Court agreed 7-0 with the student and the Administrative Disciplinary Committee agreed with the court. However, the administration upheld the election despite its unconstitutionality. Both the court and the administration censured the new elects and demanded that the student constitution be followed.

“…The administration is sincerely concerned that the student government be a viable organization,” the ADC said in the article. “It appears that such viability is accessible only if due respect is given to the constitution and also if effective use is made of projecting the voice of student government through every available means of communication for providing information regarding student concerns and for enlisting their participation in campus activities and programs.”

In 1976, ICC’s name changed to Indiana Central University, according to UIndy’s website. However, the university’s name change did not affect the name of Central Council. The 1977 Oracle describes the Central Council as “student government on a limited scale.” In 1985, student body voter participation in Central Council elections was at an all-time high, with a need to print more ballots for the first time due to increased turnout, according to the 1985 Oracle.

In 1986, ICU changed its name to the University of Indianapolis, according to UIndy’s website. This posed an issue with the campus student government’s name “Central Council.” However, the June 1986 issue of The Central Idea, which acknowledges the university’s name change, features the names of newly elected Central Council members. The August and September issue of U of I Alumni News (UIndy’s old publication for alumni) introduced the Resident Hall Association student government body, along with Central Council. 

The terms “Central Council,” “student council” and “student government” are all missing from the 1989 Oracle. Residence halls and the RHA seem to have briefly overtaken the role of a traditional student government in 1989. 

Indianapolis Student Government at UIndy was first mentioned in 1991 by the 1991 Oracle and the Oct.1, 1991 issue of The Reflector. It is consistently present in UIndy records throughout the 1990s, 1980s, 2000s and 2010s. 

Jumping to 2014, ISG created the Student Senate to “give students [a] louder voice,” according to a February 2014 article from The Reflector. The Student Senate consisted of “the ISG Executive Board, the planning committee, a representative from each of the 52 registered student organizations, undergraduate students appointed by deans and representation from the largest areas of graduate school programs.”

In 2020, ISG was disbanded and the Student Leadership and Activities Board became the student government at UIndy, according to an August 2020 article from The Reflector. SLAB is the current student government organization at UIndy. According to UIndy’s website, SLAB is “…a comprehensive organization that encompasses the missions from the previous Campus Program Board (CPB), Indianapolis Student Government (ISG), and Residence Hall Association (RHA).” The webpage lists nine different administrative positions within SLAB that students can apply for. Officers are interviewed and hired by the Office of Student Affairs, according to the August 2020 article. SLAB’s webpage states that the student body can be involved with SLAB through SLAB Council, a voluntary council. The Office of Student Affairs announced on March 1 that a more traditional and formal student government will be reinstated for the 2023-2024 school year. This organization is titled “Student Government Association,” and officers will be elected by popular student vote. (Go to the News section of this issue to learn more about SGA.)

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