A reader points to this story, and asks:
Why does the student government [here, at the University of Florida -EV] have a $14 million budget? For that matter, why are there such things as student governments at all? When I was a student, I attended school to learn things and to obtain a degree, not to “govern” the school. In sending my kids to school, I want the school to be governed by knowledgeable adults, not other students. You wouldn’t go to a baseball game and expect to govern the National League.
That was my view at one point as well, but my sense is that there are (at least) three reasons for university student governments.
(1) They directly and indirectly help arrange various student events that would otherwise have to be arranged by the administration. And because the students do this for free, the result may be more cost-effective — and perhaps even more conscious of student desires and interests — than if the administration did this (depending on how effective and enthusiastic the student government is).
(2) They help provide a credential for students who want to show “leadership skills” on resumes and on graduate school applications; whether or not this is systemically good, a university that didn’t offer its students such a credential would be to some disagree disadvantaged compared to universities that do offer the credentials.
(3) They help learn students learn various managerial and political skills, with “politics” here referring to internal organization politics as well as electioneering politics.
But that’s just my casual and not very well-informed assessment of the matter; I’d like to hear what others who know more about this can say.