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The student government president (sometimes called "student body president," "student council president" or "school president") is generally the highest-ranking officer of a student union. While a student government group and a class president are very similar to each other in some ways, the main difference between them is that while a class president represents a specific grade within the school, the student government president represents the school's entire student body (hence why they're sometimes called "student body president" or "school president").
The authority and responsibility of Presidents vary according to their respective institutions. Students performing in this role typically serve a ceremonial and managerial purpose, as a spokesperson of the entire student body. The president may oversee his or her association's efforts on student activity events and planning, school policy support from students, budget allocation, fiscal planning, recognition of developing issues pertaining to students, and communication between faculty/staff and the student body.
Duties usually include working with students to resolve problems, informing school administration of ideas emanating from the student body, and managing the student government in the capacity of Chief Executive Officer.
In this role, they may make student appointments, campus-wide committees and boards, and may represent the institution to other associations or bodies. For example, the student government presidents within the University System of Georgia also serve on the statewide Student Advisory Council of Georgia.
Though supported by other officer positions (e.g. Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc.), a President is expected to gain knowledge of parliamentary procedure, and in most cases, Robert's Rules of Order.
In the United States, more than 70% of student government presidents are compensated.
Some schools vary in the powers for the president of their student governments, but many grant veto power to the individual over any act passed by the student senate/house of representatives at the collegiate level. Some student council constitutions and bylaws assign any powers not explicitly stated to the President.
The office holder typically serves one school year in most schools, but some may serve more than one term. Presidents, and sometimes their running mate, the Student Government Vice President, are generally elected via one of three methods:
In democratic student government, the Vice President generally succeeds to the position of President if the incumbent is unable to discharge his/her duties permanently, resigns, or is impeached by a student council or senate (in a manner similar to that of the United States Government).
Some former student government presidents have become notable at the national or even international level, for various reasons (e.g., political, social), such as:
In December 2015, the Slog and the Seattle Times reported that a Western Washington University student had been arrested and released on bail after calling for the lynching of the student body president of the university. The racist threats were posted on Yik Yak.