In the months since College Council Co-Presidents Jeremy Goldstein ’09 and Peter Nurnberg ’09 took office last February, they have used their position both to pursue their goals and to address student issues that have arisen on campus.
The three issues that made up the majority of the presidents’ campaign platform have not, however, come to fruition for various reasons. First, they have been unable to allow alumni to earmark up to $50 donations to specific student organizations. Nurnberg and Goldstein hoped that if enacted, this program would increase donations from alumni who felt a connection with specific groups more so than to the College as a whole.
Upon exploring the idea, Goldstein and Nurnberg encountered “surprising opposition” from administrators. “We met with a lot of different people, but in the end they weren’t receptive to the change,” Goldstein said. “They had their reasons – good reasons. There were concerns that earmarking would detract from the donations to the College as a whole, and there were problems with the equity of different student groups with respect to how supportive alums might be.”
The second item of the platform, evaluating campus spaces, fared somewhat better initially when Paresky ceased its 24-hour operations. Once late-night hours were reinstated and other campus issues came into the spotlight, however, the presidents’ original intention of giving students a voice regarding how spaces should be used, declined in importance. “The campus spaces committee hasn’t progressed as much as we thought it would,” Nurnberg said.
Third, initial hopes that the presidents would establish a subsidized convenience store on campus have not seen fulfillment. After discussing the idea with administrators, Dining Services and local businesses, the presidents came across resistance. “There were complications that involved the economics and relationship between the College and the town,” Goldstein said. “It was a lot of weighing the pros and cons.”
Nurnberg and Goldstein both believe that their biggest successes have come in making strides in the area of student involvement with important issues, a major article of their campaign platform last winter. “We wanted to have students in place on committees so that more people can participate in decision-making,” Goldstein said. To that end, students have taken part in committees formed to evaluate the 1914 Library, the potential for a dance program major, and have also been a part of the formation of the Committee on Community Interaction (CCI).
Nurnberg addressed the idea of student involvement widely, and emphasized the role of CC as a mediator between students and administrators. “One of our goals was about being open and receptive to people by getting feedback and determining what the student body wants,” he said. “We also wanted to be aggressive about keeping up with senior administrators so we could keep students updated about what was going on.”
Being more vocal with senior administrators about including students on committees has paid off, according to the co-presidents. “We have tried hard to foster a culture in which the default is for the administration to involve students in important decisions,” Nurnberg said.
Much of the work that this CC has done has surrounded the different issues that have come up during their term. In responding to the economic crisis, Nurnberg and Goldstein felt that their role was to assure that students were well-informed about how their lives on campus would be affected, which they accomplished through a well-attended question and answer session with President Schapiro on Oct. 22. “It’s important for students to understand what’s going on. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity, through panels with President Schapiro and Dean Merrill, to have questions addressed,” Nurnberg said.
The co-presidents have also had to consider the way in which the financial crisis may affect funding for student activities. “Student funding is always something we want to ask about, but at this point, no one’s quite sure yet,” Goldstein said. “It has affected us. We made strides toward allocating more money for concerts and student groups, but then September came and the world changed.”
Despite coming across barriers in pursuing their agenda, Nurnberg and Goldstein believe that their tenure has resulted in several accomplishments to date. One of the biggest successes, in the eyes of both presidents, has been their activity with the 1914 Library. The money allocated to the library by CC will be used to continue helping students get necessary books without substantial cost.
Other areas of success have come out of ongoing initiatives. Goldstein and Nurnberg view the student body vote on the $35,000 question as setting a good precedent for future decision-making. “It’s easy for any governing body to make decisions without asking for input. Student voting gives more power directly to the students, and allows for a say in big decisions,” Nurnberg said. “When something is really important and will impact the lives of students, they should have input, and we hope that future CCs continue this practice.”
In addressing concerns that had been voiced over the way the $35,000 vote was handled, the presidents noted that things turned out well. “I think we were able to show that the money will be used to benefit everyone,” Nurnberg said. Nevertheless, both conceded that reactions to the vote brought up issues of clarity, voter turn-out and time for discussion that are important to consider.
The diversity initiatives of the past months have also presented opportunities and responsibilities. “We endorsed Claiming Williams last spring, and we support everything they’re doing,” Nurnberg said. Although CC has not been a visible presence thus far, its role in the project may increase in the near future. “Should the planning committee want our help, I think we have a big role in the coming weeks and months when it comes to getting people excited for the main event. All 22 members of CC will need to use their networks and connections to spread the word,” Goldstein said.
CC’s initial reaction to the Stand With Us movement was to form the CCI last year. “We envisioned CCI as an independent committee. We’ve worked with them to get set up. Recently, they’ve hit some roadblocks, and have discovered some overlap with other groups. We’re currently working towards coordination of all the efforts,” Nurnberg said.
Overall, Nurnberg and Goldstein feel that their relationship dynamic has been effective. “We both have different ways of approaching problems, different perspectives to offer, and different experiences. Peter knows more about how the College works than any student I’ve ever met.” Goldstein said. “I think it’s been a good working relationship,” Nurnberg said.
In the last few months of their time as presidents, Goldstein and Nurnberg hope to continue the work that they’ve begun, and also set the stage for the incoming CC. “We want to continue a dialogue about interesting things on campus. Even in a small school, there are still important things to discuss, and we want to bring all voices into debates about community standards,” Goldstein said.