CC needs to reform the appointments committee

As I write this, the seven voting members of the College Council (CC) Appointments Committee are churning through their seventh hour of meetings to decide who will hold positions on such committees as Committee on Educational Policy, Committee on Undergraduate Life, Committee on Priorities and Resources, Student Activities Council, Library Committee, Finance Committee, Safety Committee, et cetera.

It’s a long and arduous process that will determine more than anything else the voice that CC will have in such matters as what buildings will be renovated sooner rather than later, how to address class size, or how to spend $80,000 on campus programming. As College Council co-president Todd Rogers ’01 writes on the CC website: “In the past, ideas and proposals coming from these committees have propelled some of the most significant student-initiated changes at Williams.”

Just who is it making these decisions? The Appointments Committee, which is comprised of seven voting members – the four newly elected at large college council representatives, and the three class officers (the CC secretary keeps notes, but has no voice, and the co-presidents breaks a tie). This year there are three members who have never served on council, there is one member who has served on the appointments committee before, there is one woman, there is one freshman and there are two minority students. When asked, some of them will honestly tell you that they have no idea what some of the committees that they are appointing members to do.

For this reason, I (as the chairwoman of the Student Activities Council – a committee getting five new members from the Appointments Committee this weekend) received a letter asking me to describe in 300 words or less the ideal SAC candidate, the mission of SAC, SAC activities and anything else I think the Appointments Committee needs to know in order to make an informed decision.

Three hundred words is less than this article (I am at 311 words right now, and have barely gotten any sort of point across), and I am a prolific writer who cares a great deal about the future of an organization I have put countless hours into. Last year, the education of the Appointments Committee was simpler – it asked the outgoing chair to come to talk and answer questions – his expertise was a small part of the process. While this is a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough – current members need to be integrated into the decision making process since they have such valuable expertise.

When asked why they weren’t going to follow this precedent, some members cited the time it would take to speak with all those people, the fear that speaking with them would institutionalize static and unchanging committees and the bias that that person might bring to the table. To say the decisions this committee is making today aren’t worth the extra time it would take to become more fully educated is ridiculous. To say that a sense of continuation is not valuable is shortsighted, and to say that neither I nor any other chair/senior would be unable to put aside their bias for the good of their committee (and that a member of the Appointment Committee would be able to simply because they amassed a majority vote) is insulting.

After all, I am a person who holds my position due to the Appointments Committee. Furthermore, I served on the Appointments Committee last year as the 2000 Class Representative. There were committees, like the Library Committee, that I knew nothing about, the very least of which is what they were looking for in a representative, even though I had served three years on CC.

Maybe those reps don’t matter as much – but isn’t that the person who should have been spear heading the effort to expand the library hours? These appointees can have a great impact in the future of college policy.

The effects of the Appointments Committee are far-reaching and may be the most direct influence that CC can make in its tenure. Once the Appointments Committee has chosen its candidates, they must be approved en masse by the council – but the council can just approve or disapprove the candidates without the benefit of reading any of the self-nominations or even knowing the names of all the people who applied.

I have faith in the people that have been elected as voting members of the Appointments Committee – I was one of them last year. And it is speaking from that position that I make the recommendation that the Appointments Committee allow outgoing or senior members of the committees they are choosing in on the appointments process – to read all nominations and add their expertise to the discussions. Because I believe that a more informed decision is a better decision, and that the benefits of this far outweigh any opposition.

And I’m not alone in this feeling – other college council members, other committee members, and other general students agree as well. This Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in Baxter Lounge the Appointments Committee will be presenting their recommendations to CC – and while it may seem it is too late to involve present committee members, this is not the case.

At the very least, it is a conversation that needs to take place on the campus level. E-mail your thoughts to opinions@wso.