Two weeks ago I read the College Council agenda that my house representative had showed me, and I found the time slot called “Open Time.” As a member of the Rape and Sexual Assault Hotline I had volunteered to go before Council to encourage school wide participation in the “Take Back the Night” March. Open Time has typically been the best time for people of the community to come and either ask Council something informal or to make a statement of some sort. My goal was the latter, so I arrived in Baxter Lounge a few minutes before the slated time and waited patiently for my turn.
Sure enough when Open Time rolled around, my raised hand was recognized, and I was placed in the cue to speak just like a few other people in the room. Five minutes were allotted for this portion of the meeting, and these five minutes flew by with only three people having spoken. As is usual CC protocol, the treasurer called time, and when no one made a move to extend Open Time, CC proceeded with its agenda. I was left baffled, as were the others in the room who had important matters to present before the Council.
My bewilderment slowly turned to disappointment and then anger. Open Time is a time to let the community participate directly with the Council, and yet no non-elected member of the Council was allowed to speak! In fact, one of my peers who is studying in England for the year had come to the Council meeting to talk about something. Like me, he too was called on yet due to the time restriction and lack of extension, he not allowed to speak. Let me tell you, having served on the College Council for the past four years, not many people use their vacation time to come to Council meetings. This student came and was unable to speak.
Over the years one of the biggest complaints against CC has been claims of its insular nature. For the first time I saw the CC do nothing about contradicting this claim. In the past, we made the effort to call upon non-Council members whenever they wanted to speak so that people could feel like they had a direct say in what went on. This year, I seem to recall the co-presidents running on a platform of community-building and representation. While the co-presidents have done much good already, I feel that they, along with their Council, could certainly improve on representing the common person.
By not moving to extend Open Time, CC symbolically closed the door of accessibility that it prides itself on. First of all, Open Time was instated as a time for the people of Williams to speak—CC should see that this ideal is maintained. Secondly, I find it disrespectful for the officers to call on people and then not allow them to speak. I do not put all of the blame on the officers. Being an officer is a difficult job, and all of the CC representatives should recognize the importance of community participation in order to building a successful and representative student government. Everybody who sits as a representative on Council is, by election, a leader of a group of people. I was dismayed that there was no willing move to extend time It is the job of the reps. to hear the people. I understand that everybody has a lot of work to do, but all reps ought to run for a position well knowing that they will be giving up their time to serve the community. After all, how can one serve listening?
When I asked for an explanation of why everybody could not be accommodated in Open Time, co-president Todd Rogers ’01 said “If it’s important enough it should go on the agenda.” Sure—I agree with Todd, but what if the announcement arises that day and is of a pressing nature? CC should take such items into consideration before it makes such blanket statements. Furthermore, I ask you—what if the agenda is already packed with items as it always is? What then? Do you prioritize what you think is most important?
Herein lies the point of Open Time. Open Time is for people to speak. Open Time is not prepared. It’s a time during which people can have their voices heard and in my case, my announcement was more effective coming from a member of the Hotline than from my house rep.
I waited for one hour until the meeting had almost concluded before two CC members, Shenil Saya ’02 and Phil Swisher ’01, to whom I am truly grateful, opened their mouths and requested that the Council re-open Open Time. Without these two, how would the common person have been able to speak to Council and their peers via the minutes? CC meetings were moved to Baxter to improve the accessibility of the Council—let’s work together to promote such accessibility via placing due respect to the community and Open Time.