Learning to Work: The Student Senate as a Workplace




Jorns, Whitney

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The purpose of this study is to examine a student organization and identify how the students’ statuses, roles, and behaviors relate to their experiences within that organization. Rosabeth Kanter’s (1977) Men and Women of the Corporation greatly influences the analysis of the data providing insight into workplace culture and employee behavior. The study identifies what roles and statuses the students assume, in what ways the students are given opportunities for leadership, and how peer acceptance is critical to their overall success within the group. University administration withholds all institutional power from student senators resulting in attempts to gain alternative forms of control through social power. While access to the senate is not limited to any university students, opportunities for leadership positions within that group are only given to those senators who have this social power and are validated by their peers. This limiting social structure causes considerable pressure for social conformity and competition resulting in closed groups or cliques. These cliques then exercise social power in an effort to gain control, but instead find the results to be destructive to the group. Because institutional power continues to be withheld, the internal social hierarchy is maintained. This study suggests that the students are most limited by the hierarchical structure of their organization. However, with the support of university administration, the students will gain tools to create a more positive work environment, reducing need for social hierarchies, resulting in a more productive student senate.



Student, Senate, Power, Work, Gender, Leadership