CC candidates detail election platforms

When College Council (CC) elections begin on March 10, students will have the opportunity to choose among four pairs of co-presidential candidates with radically different views about what the goals of CC ought to be and how it ought to achieve those goals.

The race is between Brendan Docherty ’04 and Scott Grinsell ’04, Shomik Dutta ’05 and Zak Haviland ’04, Aidan Finley ’04 and Sarah Iams ’04 and Mike Henry ’04 and Chin Ho ’04.

Docherty and Grinsell described themselves as primarily concerned with social issues: “One of the biggest issues I want to address is social life and social planning,” Grinsell said. “I think it’s the biggest problem plaguing the campus right now.”

They contended CC has become too much of a reactive body to a certain extent. “I think that College Council is most effective when it’s aware of issues before they are decided,” Grinsell said. “The biggest problem with Council this year is that there haven’t been enough pre-emptive strikes.”

However, they said simply because a decision has been made should not mean that CC has lost the ability to fight it: “If the administration’s ramming something down our throats that we don’t want, we’re still there to stand up and do all that we can to try and stop it. We’ll pass resolutions, or make noise, or organize people to protest,” Docherty said.

Docherty and Grinsell disagree with allegations that CC has been a defunct organization for the last year. Discussing the situation with student parking in the new garage, Grinsell said, “I called up the town manager and I asked him what he thought about the parking garage and he told me he was appalled that the College was trying to blame it on the town. So I said, ‘Great, come in and tell that to the rest of Council and let’s get that in the paper.’ And he came in, and that’s what he said, and that’s what allowed the Record to write that excellent article that got parking spots for students. It was really a team effort.”

Similarly, Docherty said that he has received mostly positive feedback from people. “I actually got a large number of opinions saying that Council is doing a good job this year,” he said.

Dutta and Haviland have been the most vocal critics of the current CC administration. “If this were a firm and the CEO and the president and the vice-president did nothing for the firm, they’d be fired by the board,” Dutta said. “Students need to preserve that sense of accountability.”

The heart of their argument is that CC is not adequately proactive and is too caught up in bureaucracy to be effective. “CC doesn’t need to form committees,” Haviland said. “They need to spearhead issues.”

Dutta and Haviland point to the parking garage and the smoking ban as indicative of the failures of CC. Referring to the parking garage, Haviland said, “CC gave up on it and called it a dead issue a week before the Record broke the story. That’s ridiculous.”

Similarly, Dutta said CC has grossly mismanaged the smoking issue: “Why don’t we get students to go to Dean Roseman and protest constantly? Why don’t we get students to write [to] Morty Schapiro, have write-ins, have phone calls, keep bothering them, tell them ‘no,’ that we will fight on this constantly? Why doesn’t CC develop a fund to start paying for that $25 fee for every time students are smoking? Why doesn’t CC start defending its students?” he said.

Although neither Dutta nor Haviland has previous experience on CC, they believe that they are qualified to be elected to its highest office: “We’re not so sure CC credentials are necessarily a positive thing,” Dutta said. “If you look at what the CC leadership has accomplished this year, they’ve actually backpedaled more than they’ve progressed. And now, not only are those same CC leaders asking us for a second chance, they’re asking us for a promotion. And what have they accomplished this year?”

“I think the reason they haven’t accomplished anything is they’re so wrapped up in being in College Council that they’ve become a gigantic bureaucracy with an institutionalized feeling of defeatism,” Dutta said.

Finley and Iams contend that CC came to believe that it was supposed to function as the voice of the students, but that its real responsibility is only to manage the student activities tax and to appoint students to College committees. “Let’s clarify,” Finley said. “CC is not the voice of the students.”

They argue that the place for CC to effectively “prevent administrative excess” is within the committee system. Once a decision passes through committee, Finley said, it is impossible to stop it: “Once the administration makes a decision, it’s over. It just doesn’t make a difference once they’ve made up their minds.”

The key, they said, is to put dedicated people on committees who are willing to report back to CC on a regular basis. Iams explained how mismanagement of the committee system allowed for the unpopular restriction of room draw group sizes last year:

“[The committee member] just never bothered to tell Council about it. And then we tried to protest to the administration, but the administration said, ‘You had someone on the committee and the committee approved it, so of course we’re not going to change it because we’ve already had student input.’”

But outside of the committee structure, Finley and Iams envision an extremely limited role for CC. When asked if they thought CC should have an active role in mobilizing students, Iams replied, “No. It’s the students’ job to mobilize themselves.”

According to Iams, CC has no mandate to act as the voice of the students. Describing her successful campaign to CC over a year ago, she said, “I was elected with one vote. That’s not exactly a mandate from a 70-person house. The amount of input that I got from my house on issues amounted to the five people who spoke to me.”

“It’s hardly democracy because nobody cares,” Finley said. “It’s a really irrelevant organization that nobody thinks speaks for them.”

Henry and Ho stress the importance of communication both with the student body and with the administration. Communication with the student body is important, they said, because CC does not always know exactly what the student body wants.

“We feel as though we sometimes assume what the student body wants, and then we act on it and then we find out later that the student body didn’t even want that,” Henry said.

They also see communication as vital to achieving more results: “We really need to have a stronger dialogue within the administration. We foresee CC meeting with trustees in the future, which right now CC does not do.”

According to Henry, much of the current problem with CC is that not enough is expected from its members: “People expect to come to these two-hour meetings once a week and change everything that’s wrong with this school, and that’s not how it works.”

Despite allegations that CC’s policy of forming its own committees is overly bureaucratic and not particularly effective, Ho said that committees remain one of the best ways of affecting change on this campus: “I really do think that committees are important. One of the things I would like to do is ask the student body is, ‘What the heck do you want us to do?’” he said.

They said the committee system does have some flaws. They said members of both CC committees and College committees do not report back often enough to CC, which led Henry to describe one of CC’s biggest flaws as a lack of accountability. In a subtle swipe at Docherty and Grinsell, he pointed to the party policy committee as one of the most egregious violators.

Henry said that the biggest reason CC has an image problem is not that it is ineffective, but that it does not do enough to publicize its successes: “The perception that CC doesn’t do anything is actually a miscommunication between CC and the student body,” he said.

In the other CC races, Federico Sosa ’04 and Jonathan Landsman ’04 are running unopposed for treasurer and secretary, respectively. Elections begin on March 10th, and will be hosted online at http://jose.williams.edu.