Cowley, Harman discuss their co-presidency

Friday marks the end of the College Council co-presidency of Amanda Cowley ’98 and Mac Harman ’98. They turned over their presidential responsibilities to the new Co-Presidents, Kate Ervin ’99 and Will Slocum ’99.

Since their campaign and victory last March, Cowley and Harman have been tackling everything from the NCAA issue, the alcohol policy and Student Activities Committee, to lice, listservers and the housing draw.

Both Harman and Cowley’s paths to the CC co-presidency began their freshman years. Cowley became involved with the Council as soon as she came to Williams.

“I got here freshman year and had never been involved in student government,” Cowley recalled. “I thought, ‘why not?’ I ran for freshman representative.”

That spring on the CC, Cowley began looking over the College’s constitution, and her sophomore year, she got involved with the committee that rewrote it. The following year she served as CC secretary. “After spending that much time on the Council,” Cowley explained, “I started to get an idea about how it should be run.”

At the end of her junior year, Cowley received an e-mail from Harman first proposing the idea that they run for the presidency. “I had never been involved in College Council,” Harman said, “But I had been incredibly involved in everything else that wasn’t College Council.”

Harman had become acquainted with the administration through serving on the Committee on Undergraduate Life and the Goodrich/Baxter Building Committee. He was also active in many student groups, such as the Williams Christian Fellowship, Psalm 96 and the Swing Club.

At the beginning of his junior year, Sonia Olson ‘97, then co-president of CC, asked Harman if he was thinking of running. “I said, ‘I have no interest whatsoever’,” Harman recalled. But the idea grew on him. “I really loved Williams, and this was a way for me to give something back and help other people get involved like I had,” Harman said.

When considering whom to run with, Cowley quickly came to mind. Harman and Cowley had been friendly since First Days, and, as Cowley explained, “I was an obvious candidate because of what I had done with the Council.”

At the end of their first semester, Harman contacted Cowley with his proposal. “I got the e-mail December of junior year,” Cowley recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘who is this kid?’ I told him, ‘I’m trying not to think about this right now.’ But when I did, he was the first person I thought of.”

“We really felt like we complemented each other well,” Harman explained. “I knew student groups and the administration, and Amanda knew College Council better than anyone else alive.”

Chris Bell ’98, secretary of the Council under Harman and Cowley, agreed with Harman’s assessment: “No one … [had] a better grasp of how Council functions, the Constitution, Rules of Order and the like [than Cowley]. On the converse, Mac pitched his tent long enough in Hopkins to know most of the Administration by the color of their socks.”

That year there were three tickets running for co-president: Harman and Cowley, John Williams ’98 and Matt Wheeler ’98, and Andrea Stanton ’98 and Forest St. Clair ’98. “[The race] was nothing like this year,” Cowley recalled. “Every door on every building had, like, 10 posters for every candidate. There was tension, and even rumors of scandal.”

Harman commented “We had a very cohesive campaign.”

Cowley and Harman put forth a comprehensive platform in their self-nomination. One main focus was student activities, including regular recent release movies, busing to away games, and a revitalized SAC. Another focus was communication, such as listening to student suggestions for Goodrich, and encouraging improved attendance and accessibility to CC Meetings. Cowley and Harman included improving The Log, Frosh Council and the public housing draw in their platform. Often in CC elections, when there are three tickets, the elections have to go to a runoff because the winner must have over 50 percent of the vote. The Harman/Cowley ticket, however, won 70 percent of the student vote in the preliminary election (each of the other tickets claimed 15 percent), eliminating the need for a runoff.

“The advantage to such a gory and public spectacle of an election,” Cowley explained, “is that it made the administration very aware of what was going on. Then when we won, it gave them the impression of a student mandate.” She added, “That helped us from day one.”

Harman and Cowley initiated action as soon as they took office last spring. “We had these great at-large reps, a charismatic secretary, an incredibly organized treasurer,” Cowley noted. “Because we were working with such exceptional people we were able to accomplish all our campaign goals before the end of the summer.” These included the SAC recent release cinema, which Harman coordinated, and the open housing draw, which they actually accomplished before even being elected.

Mike Darowish ’98, CC Treasurer, also instituted the first self-audits, in which every group, at the end of the fiscal year, would report on how they spent their CC money and what their plans were for next year. “That way we could see how frugally our money had been spent,” Cowley said. CC also made committee reports a regular feature at weekly meetings, so committees could keep the Council apprised of their activities.

The accomplishments of the spring put Cowley and Harman in a good position for the fall. “It’s a good thing we got so much done right at first,” Harman stressed. “This year has had a lot of huge issues, more than most years.”

The first of these was NCAA participation. Cowley and Harman met with President of the College Harry C. Payne, and tried to keep the administration apprised of the opinions of the student body. Meanwhile, they were also trying to coordinate the issue beyond the Williams campus, by setting up a listserver for all the student government presidents of NESCAC schools. “We broke the news [about NCAA participation] to a lot of campuses, and they started having forums,” Cowley said. “On campuses that weren’t like Williams [with an informed student body], it really helped to have the student governments informed early.”

A second major issue was the alcohol policy. “It was a huge thing to begin to deal with, not just legally but socially,” Cowley explained. “Mac and I have seen it as our role to tell the administration as often and as completely as possible what the students think.” And when security officers went to court, Harman recalls, the co-presidents went to show their support. “It’s a problem the school will be working through for a long time,” Cowley said.

A third challenge was the lice epidemic. “We spent a million hours talking about it, telling [the administration] how students were dealing with it,” Harman said. At one point the co-presidents suggested that laundry be free, and the administration cooperated that same day. “We also sent flowers to the health center workers on behalf of all the students,” Harman added. “That week before Thanksgiving, they had all been working overtime and some were not even being paid. We later heard that [the flowers] single-handedly saved the morale of the health center.”

Another area of accomplishment this year has been the revitalization of SAC. “We said we wanted to make sure SAC stayed strong and grew, and it has,” Harman said. “It has been easy to do because the p
eople running SAC are incredible.” Cowley and Harman also increased the frequency of Currier Clubs, added the game room at The Log, and improved Thursday night at the Log. “As recently as last year,” Cowley recalled, “Thursday night at The Log was only a senior thing. Now it is crazy; people are climbing in the windows.”

The structure of CC itself has also benefited from Harman and Cowley’s leadership. As co-presidents they instituted an hour and a half time limit on CC weekly meetings, which has made them more efficient and has increased attendance. This year was the first time Williams has had a full Council. “That is unprecedented in my four years [here],” Cowley said.

Cowley and Harman claim that much of their success has resulted from interactions with other people. One key aspect of this is their dealings with administrators. “We try to maintain a great relationship, and express on the part of the students that we think they’re doing a good job,” Harman explained. “We’re on a first name basis with most administrators.” The two have lunch with Dean of the College Peter Murphy every Friday.

“It’s challenging when there’s a difference between what students want and what the administration says is possible,” Cowley said. “But it’s good to be that middleman. When it works out and you can further communication, it’s great.”

Harman and Cowley also give much of the credit for their success to an exceptional Council body. “One of our goals was to train people to come behind us,” Harman explained. “We took [the four campus-at-large reps and the class reps for the senior-sophomore classes] and gave them a lot of responsibility—almost as much as co-presidents have had in the past. Then we gave the house reps the responsibilities of the campus reps.”

“It was a combination of us getting excited about giving them responsibility and them getting excited about the projects they were working on,” Cowley pointed out. “We brought a lot of knowledge to the position, which is an incredibly powerful tool, and we have tried to share as much of that as we could.”

Harman and Cowley look forward to helping Ervin and Slocum as much as they can. “It has gotten so that whenever Kate or Will sees me coming they either hide, or turn and run away,” Cowley joked. “They know better than to ask me a question. We have too much advice.”

“My advice would be to hire full-time secretaries,” Harman said. Right now the CC hires a lot of independent people to help run CC programs, such as the Daily Advisor, the listservers, busing and recent release movies. “By doing this we are acknowledging what student government should not be doing—hours and hours of menial labor.”

“They’ll be facing a lot of challenges,” Cowley said. “What helps is a realistic approach. It’s about getting things done, but also about explaining when you can’t get things done, when you come face-to-face with dreams you can’t answer.”

Most of all, Cowley and Harman say they are going to do their best to give Ervin and Slocum space and time to figure out their new office. “We don’t want to leave any of our own projects hanging,” Cowley explained. “It’s important that Kate and Will make the office their own.”

One important lesson Ervin and Slocum can draw from Harman and Cowley’s presidency is that their biggest resources are each other. “Our strengths complement each other really well,” Cowley and Harman said, almost in unison. “We’re like two halves of a whole.”