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The Catlin Gabel Student Association: An Anatomical Analogy

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By Eddie Friedman '10

From the Spring 2010 Caller

There are bad days and good days in and for the Catlin Gabel Student Association, the CGSA, of which I am president this year. On bad days the CGSA seems to me like an appendix. It started when the school needed a group to process and carry out the tasks of the community that other student or faculty organizations could not. On bad days, the CGSA feels a little vestigial, and like a sharp abdominal pain above the right hip of the (student) body.

 
I wouldn’t enjoy working with and leading the CGSA nearly as much if every day were a bad day, and the vast majority aren’t. To continue the anatomical analogy, on good days the CGSA is the hind brain of the Catlin Gabel high school’s community. This utterly invaluable cranial region consists of three parts.
 
The pons is the bridge between the brain and the central nervous system. All information traveling to the brain from the body passes through this little patch of tissue. At the beginning of my time as CGSA president, Michael Heath, the head of the Upper School, told me: “Your job in the CGSA is not really to serve as the student liaison and petitioner to the faculty.” Coincidentally, many students told me: “Your job is not to represent the opinions of the faculty to us!” From what I’ve experienced so far, they were both wrong. The CGSA sends information both ways.
 
The medulla oblongata at the base of the brain, beneath the pons, regulates autonomic functions within the body. These functions are not conscious, so if the medulla oblongata were not there to carry them out they would not happen, and death would probably ensue. While maybe not quite so vital, allotting funding for clubs, planning kidnap day, and managing class elections are jobs that the CGSA does that bear great importance to the Catlin Gabel community.
 
And finally we have the cerebellum, that beautiful striped body of folded neural tissue, tucked back underneath the occipital lobes, attached to the brain stem at the pons. This region plays an absolutely essential role in the functioning of the body. Like the cerebellum, the CGSA receives information from all parts of the community and uses this information to modify and fine-tune the actions of the body as a whole. Not only does the CGSA represent the faculty’s feelings to the students and vice versa, we take into account those feelings and opinions and desires and synthesize them in order to do what we think is best for the Catlin Gabel community.
 
Earlier this year the CGSA dealt with the issue of cell phones in the high school community. The faculty thought something had to be done, while most students didn’t. We debated it thoroughly, observed cell phone use in the community, and conducted six weeks of experiments. We considered that while it might be easy to simply abandon the issue, if we did the faculty might take more drastic measures than we thought appropriate. Eventually we arrived at a middle ground that emphasized respect and responsible action, pillars of this educational body. (You may read the policy online at http://www.catlin.edu/upper/cgsa/cellphone-policy.) So far, everyone seems pretty happy.
 
The work of the CGSA is not always easy or straightforward, hence that uncomfortable appendix-like feeling. But when we toil to complete important, significant work for the community, despite many challenges, we’re the brain stem, and it all seems worth it.
Eddie Friedman will attend Brown University this fall. He admits that he may have taken a few liberties with the facts of the actual functions of the various organs he mentions, for the sake of beauty and aesthetic unity.