In the most recent issue of the Record, the board vehemently attacked College Council (CC) as a legitimate representative of the student body. The editorial claimed that the CC is an ineffectual organization forever ensnared by administrative procedures, constitutional questions and esoteric debates. The Record asserted that CC members are unmotivated, negligent and irresponsible – a disgrace to student government. There is some merit to these opinions; my colleagues and I have spoken such sentiments on many occasions. But the Record presented an argument riddled with contradictions, inaccuracies and half-truths. This article aims to discern truth from falsehood, just criticism from mere slander. Hopefully, these few paragraphs will engender a clearer picture of CC and facilitate a more productive interaction between students and their representatives.
Of the Record board’s thirteen members, only Mayo Shattuck has served on CC. Since he is currently the Gladden House representative, his conflict of interest compelled him to refrain from the discussion of their editorial. Therefore, the writers of that polemic had no experience with College Council. Indeed, I cannot recall a single meeting that one board member has attended. Such ignorance opened the door for the misinformation that pervades their argument.
They wrote, “to date, we have seen little or no action out of CC.” A cursory examination of that week’s minutes justified this statement for them, as CC voted on only one issue. This dearth of legislation indicated to the Record board that CC “doesn’t seem to live up to the decisive action promised during last spring’s elections.” Unfortunately, there are only so many new clubs to recognize, activities to fund and letters to write. Voting does not constitute action, nor does it create productive change. It is only one component of these greater goals. CC could fill its agenda with innumerable meaningless and bureaucratic votes, which would apparently satiate the Record’s desire for political action. But one cannot measure democratic efficiency by the number of votes passed. One must look beyond mere numbers and statistics. The Record did not attempt to do this.
CC provides a forum in which any group can update the campus on important issues and individuals are able to voice their opinions. This is one of Council’s most important roles and it performs the duty effectively. A closer examination of that week’s CC minutes would have revealed much dialogue about campus affairs and advocacy for student interests. Members discussed funding of concerts and entertainment, efforts to get card readers installed in Spring St. establishments, ways in which the faculty club could increase student-faculty interaction, the possibility of televisions in the weight room and more. Some of these initiatives will fail, while others will succeed. That is the nature of politics.
Yet the Record board perceived these facts as “an utter lack of meaningful action. . . and very little actual advocacy.” But the Record does not offer any concrete proposals and I am uncertain for what exactly they search. CC advocacy has extended the library schedule and snack bar hours. Seniors can remain on campus an extra day and will maintain e-mail access for at least a year after graduation. We solicited student opinion through e-mail and extensive tabling, and we hope to influence the CUL’s proposal. This is advocacy. This is representation.
If the Record board desires something more, I urge them to speak up and articulate their desires. But to sow the seeds of discontent through misrepresentation is irresponsible. Journalists occupy a highly visible platform on which they can espouse any idea or thought. The Record board should use this platform to propose changes to CC and the campus at large.
The few specific criticisms of the Record’s editorial were entirely unfounded. First, they complained that there was no CC representative at the recent meeting of the Williamstown board of selectmen. The status of Canterbury’s Pub was discussed and the Record believes that “a CC voice should have been present to tell the Selectmen how Williams students feel about Canterbury’s and what action students think would be appropriate for them to take.” I was not aware of a single unified student stance towards Canterbury’s. In fact, there appears to be a wide range of viewpoints on this issue. If a CC rep put forth his own personal views as representative of the entire campus, it would have complicated town-gown affairs and infuriate the College community. That is not the role of CC. If you, as an interested citizen of Williamstown, want to express your personal opinion, you may attend the open selectmen meeting and do so.
The second specific criticism articulated by the Record board concerns CC’s constitutional changes. Again, the editorial’s argument is steeped in gross contradictions. The editorial wittily remarked, “CC needs a judiciary branch about as much as a fish needs a bicycle.” Although I laughed aloud, I was a tad perplexed. After holding multiple all-campus forums about student governance last spring, CC is now attempting to implement student-initiated ideas. The proposed amendments and by-law changes will eliminate excessive red tape and confusion. We believe that changes to the structure, rules and regulations of CC will enhance student government and facilitate effective advocacy. We cannot improve one without addressing the other. The Record board obfuscates this truth with sharp quips and clever remarks.
CC representatives are only human. Although we can and will do a better job, representatives cannot solicit every opinion. Our Wednesday night meetings are open to all. Anyone may come to office hours on Sunday nights in Goodrich. Representatives e-mail their constituents and the minutes appear on dining hall tables. Our WSO website contains a wealth of information. In such an environment, only apathy impedes one from voicing his or her opinion. If you disagree with this or any sentiment expressed above, please e-mail and let me know. It is our job to listen.