In this popular club, girls’ voices matter—but not their politics.
Government Club, fondly known as Gov Club, is about government and politics—but without the politics. Every Friday, upper school students gather in Sanders from 8:25–8:50 am to discuss the week’s news in a non-partisan way. Girls say the neutrality of Gov Club provides a safe space for discussions, and it has become one of the most active clubs on campus. Between 30 to 35 girls meet weekly and this past year, remote learners also joined. Presenters and topics fluctuate, and slides are prepared on a shared drive.
The growing popularity of the student-led sessions is a testament to Hutchison’s emphasis on cultivating responsible citizens driven to lead lives of purpose. “The girls who come to Gov Club are some of the most motivated and civically engaged girls at Hutchison,” said Grace Adams ’21, who has been attending since freshman year. She’s been a co-leader of the club with Caroline Halliday ’21.
Faith Egedegbe ’22, one of the leaders for next year, described the “safe space” vibe of the Club this way: “It is important that everyone has an open space to receive and review news without any underlying political influence.”
This inclusive approach is part of the club’s success, according to Riley Coopwood ’23. “Everyone’s opinions matter, but especially in this hyper-political and polarized world we live in now, keeping the club nonpolitical eliminates the prospect of someone feeling uncomfortable, offended, or attacked.”
Club “regulars” agree that non-partisan presentations, inclusiveness, and understanding public policies are the hallmarks of the club.
Gov Club has no roster and no officers. Ronnie Robinson, upper school history teacher and club sponsor since 2014, introduced the current student-led format six years ago. He wants the meetings to be organic and not something girls attend just to fill a resume. Robinson and other faculty who attend happily stay in the background and let the girls lead.
“It’s all about the girls,” said Robinson. “Girls who show up and show interest evolve as the leaders. The teachers interject when they can add context or explain how it relates to public policy.” Teachers are the “glue” that connect policies and political trends in the meetings, he said.
The goal is for girls to share information objectively so they can discuss the issues knowledgeably outside the club and shape their own opinions based on facts. Robinson wants them to be informed “in a factual way, not a social media way.” Whatever the topic, he steers clear of debate.
“For example, guns are a longstanding policy issue. I call it a “Republicat” issue—Republicans and Democrats have opinions about it—but we don’t look at it from a red or blue perspective, or as a Second Amendment vs. gun violence issue,” he explained. “We look at the facts, at what is going on in the moment, and the public policy implications. We recognize there is a larger debate to be had, one that has been going on for decades, but we don’t get into that. Our purpose is to start the conversation, not tell anyone how they should feel about an issue.”
“We don’t want to exclude anyone based on their political affiliation or opinions, so when we make the slides, we always make sure to give the facts, not opinions,” said Loralei Forgette ’23, who presented the Derek Chauvin verdict in a recent meeting. “It allows for a real conversation about what is happening, without being swayed by certain ideas or values.”
Keeping the discourse neutral comes easy to Hutchison Debate Team members in Gov Club, said Dakota Shelton ’21. “We are aware of certain language that can turn news into an argumentative piece, so we are hyperaware of how we use language and wording in our presentations,” added Shelton.
“We don’t take sides,” said Adams. “We teach this to the younger girls from the very beginning so we can hold each other accountable for our words and how they make people feel if they don’t hold the same views as we do.”
Anna Rose Thomas ’21 has attended since freshman year. “No matter your political leaning, people listen and respond respectfully. People discuss political beliefs from time to time, but the beauty of it is that I couldn’t tell someone’s political leanings just from Gov Club alone,” she said. “Everyone is inclusive and ready to look at something from all sides. There is never one opinion more dominant than another.” Thomas, who plans to major in international business, favors presenting on international news.
Gov Club is also inspiring a generation of engaged citizens who can absorb information and critically discern its broader impact. People such as Faith Egedegbe, who recently presented on Biden’s first 100 days and included a retrospective comparison dating back to President George W. Bush. “Staying informed about local, national, and global news has helped me to spot trends, analyze the effects that the topic at hand has on us, and form an opinion with the information I have received,” said Egedegbe.
“It’s called a club, but it is more than that. It is part of our civic culture at the school now,” said Robinson. Clay Francis and Ginny Cady, colleagues in the History Department, as well as debate coach John Reynolds, attend meetings regularly and other faculty and administrators drop in occasionally to add perspectives and context. While the faculty share an affinity for government and politics, the students have diverse interests.
“I remind the girls that public policy transcends all aspects of life,” said Robinson. “We teach that government is always with you, whether you are doing research for a science grant, paying your taxes, or working in your local community. Public policy impacts all intersections of life.”
Maxine Engel ’21, who plans to major in public health, said the club has made her aware of how extensively public policy intersects with public health. “The club gave me a platform to present on topics that interested me. This year I gravitated to COVID-19 news and other public health matters like the Flint water crisis.”
Gov Club has missed only one meeting since March 2020, proving the girls’ level of commitment and engagement. Faith Egedegbe shows no signs of slowing down next year. Like her peers, she checks her politics at the door, but not her thirst for learning.
“We have a plethora of topics to choose from. I am open to take on any issue. They are all pretty fun!” said Egedegbe.
Forgette also keeps an open mind. “I like to learn about different events. I have reported on the wildfires in California, the political conventions, COVID-19 stats, international news, and different court cases,” said Forgette.
“Being a part of this club has made me a more empathic person … the critical conversations that emerge from the presentations are important. They make us world ready,” said Shelton.