Student advocacy atop CC agenda

In our campaign for the co-presidency of College Council, we promised the student body that, if elected, we would listen more effectively to students, and would harness College Council to achieve real results. Now co-presidents, we stand by our word and are determined to reinvent the Council to be more than just a body that allocates funding and selects student members to serve on committees. Although these roles are fundamental, the Constitution, newly reaffirmed by the student body, says Council should be more. It is “the voice of the student body,” and in this capacity, it will begin advocating industriously for students.

We’re not just talking about projects like increased gym hours and two-ply toilet paper (although two-ply toilet paper would certainly be nice). More significant to the lives of students and to Williams College are broader, more relevant issues. We’re talking about the layout, function and architecture of new buildings being built on campus; the quality and reliability of parties and social functions; the makeup of the faculty; the quality and diversity of the undergraduate academic experience and the quality and diversity of residential life. These issues are not beyond our reach, our understanding, or our influence. It is because these decisions are so far-reaching and relevant to students that there must be student input. Williams cannot truly be for its students without input from its students.

Take a second to think about all the ways in which this campus is changing. Right now, more institutional change is occurring at Williams than there has been in decades. The Trustees of the College, led by President Schapiro, have an ambitious long-term plan, and they have not hesitated a moment to see that vision through. This vision includes the new Baxter student center, the new Theatre and Dance Complex and the Stetson/Sawyer renovations. Also included in the plans is an Oxford-style tutorial system, new programs like Williams in New York, and a push to offer students more practical, career-oriented experience. In addition, the College is hiring new and more diverse faculty in an attempt to reduce class size and decrease the student-faculty ratio.

These changes have the potential to improve student life significantly, but right now the trustees and the administration are often left guessing about what is best for the students. This is not because they don’t care about what students think – after all, when it comes down to it, the trustees understand that Williams College is ultimately about its students. The reason that there is a lack of student input is because students have stopped articulating their opinions. There just hasn’t been an adequate means for students to see their own input actualized.

College Council will become this forum, and will articulate your opinions. It is for this reason that we want to hear from you personally about what you want incorporated on campus, what issues you feel are most important, which ones deserve Council’s energy and focus and why. This is the only way that we can articulate a thorough and accurate student voice.

You have manifold outlets to express yourself. Opinions Unplugged, an event in which a member of Council solicits opinions at a dining hall entrance, will begin taking place once a week in each dining hall on campus. E-mailing opinions@wso.williams.edu, is an anonymous method to have your voice and opinions on any issue heard by your elected student leaders, and it is open to all students for business. Lastly, your house representative is your personal link. Get to know him/her, and take advantage of his/her service to your house. He/she wants to hear from you, and will be happy to bring your opinion to College Council.

In the past week, we have been working diligently to get the new Council off the ground. We are making internal changes to Council that will allow the student lobbying voice to be more vocal and more effective. Once these changes are in place, we will be excited to implement the vision that we originally outlined in our self-nomination. The members elected to Council this year are a motivated and dedicated group. We have the utmost faith in the current members of Council, and with their help we will see an unprecedented year for Council. We believe in the student body and in College Council, and we plan to work as a team, developing the potential of every individual member of Council for the greatest benefit to our school. It is our philosophy that College Council needs to be a major player in improving Williams College, and we are committed to seeing that philosophy put into action.