Formed in 1911 at the suggestion of the Athletic Board, the Student Council at first tackled small problems such as the supervision of Freshman Class Elections and the securing of non-fraternity representation on the Cotillion Board. Initially, the Council consisted of the President of the Athletic Association, the President of the Senior Class and four delegates elected at large by the upperclassmen. Later, the composition was altered slightly, with the Council consisting of a President of Student Council (a senior elected at large), the presidents of the Athletic Association and the Senior Class, two seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.
In 1913, the Student Council established an Honor System, which came to occupy a large portion of its time. Originally, the Honor System gave to the Student Council the power to try, convict and punish those guilty of academic cheating. The Council also worked toward an end to faculty supervision during exams. Trial records within the minutes indicate that, following conviction for a violation of the Code, Council representatives often expelled the guilty parties.
The setting of Freshman regulations was another of the Student Council's annual functions. The Council organized the annual Freshman/Sophomore rush and football game. At various times, freshmen were required to wear beanies, participate in a cheering section at all inter-collegiate athletic events and attend all organizational meetings. The Student Council also established other policies concerning social activities. During its first decade, the Council ruled that only athletic organizations could award varsity letters. It also blacklisted students from all activities if they did not maintain a satisfactory grade point average. The student representatives were also responsible for selecting a design for a Hopkins ring.
The Council often expressed its views on academic and curriculum matters. During World War I, it requested that classes be continued over the summer to allow students to complete their degree requirements sooner. In 1922, the Council protested the shortening of the Christmas break. Also during the 1920s, the Council recorded its strong opposition to the admission of female undergraduates.
As the Council's prestige increased, so did its power. In the early 1930s, the Council made the Honor Code more explicit and more stringent. For the first time in its 21 years, the Council extended its authority to include scrutiny of the funds of the undergraduate classes. Similarly, the body ruled that all class banquets would require its final approval. According to the Hullabaloo, the banquets, especially those sponsored by the underclassmen, had been "indecent and disreputable." In 1939, the Council again flexed its muscles, this time replacing the elitist Cotillion Board with a more democratic Board of Social Activities. Shortly thereafter, the Blue Jay was banned from campus under threat of its editor's expulsion. As part of the growing trend towards democratization, the body accepted proposals for referendum on Council action, recall of representatives and open discussions on campus issues.
During the 1950s, the Council extended itself into the field of student services, beginning with a thorough investigation of the bookstore and its policies. Committees also looked into the University's athletic insurance and the campus parking problem. Library hours, post office problems and job opportunities were also Council concerns. The bookstore was again the subject of investigation in the mid-1960s, this time because of thefts as well as prices. Using its supervisory power, the Council also invalidated the election of the Young Republicans Club. Also at this time, a Student Police Force for crowd control at athletic events was formed. One of the Council's most enduring contributions, the Course Guide, was created in 1964. Originally a Student Council committee publication, the Course Guide later became an independent SAC group.
By the mid-1970s, the Student Council adopted its present form: equal representation for all classes, election of the Executive Board at large and the structure of the standing and independent committees. In 1975-1976, the Council addressed tuition increases, the quality of university health services, and Intersession courses, in addition to monitoring various aspects of student life.
In the 1980's and 1990's Student Council members turned their attention to larger social issues such as gay rights, the homeless, and the ROTC on campus. Local issues were also important topics. These issues included the improvement of community relations between local residents and fraternity members, restructuring the honor code, and addressing the special concerns of black students.