CC co-presidents evaluate their term

Nearing the end of their term as co-presidents of College Council (CC), Lizzy Brickley ’10 and Mike Tcheyan ’10 express a high level of satisfaction with their accomplishments thus far. The co-presidents have made significant strides in most areas they outlined in their initial campaign platform, and are confident in the manner with which they have handled issues that cropped up over the past year, ranging from the recent incident involving homophobic vandalism to the ongoing neighborhood system review and preparation for the presidential transition.

Brickley and Tcheyan said that one of the most difficult aspects of their presidency has been reconciling a focus on their own initiatives with the attention demanded by various campus issues that unexpectedly arose. “I think we struggled with that a bit,” Tcheyan said, adding that this fall, as opposed to last spring, he and Brickley have been able to streamline their processes by delegating more responsibility amongst the members of CC Campus – the nucleus of CC that includes class representatives, the treasurer and the secretary. “Responding to the events as they came up has been a large part of our time,” Brickley said. “But we’ve become more of a team, especially in this second semester, and everybody is really contributing and collaborating now.”

Brickley emphasized that the transitional period during which they were elected – both in terms of budgetary review and presidential turnover – gave her and Tcheyan the impetus to focus on internal strengthening and restructuring rather than an agenda of extensive program expansion. “Williams had gotten into the habit of building on more and more,” Brickley said. “We started thinking a lot about streamlining, doing things better and more efficiently, making changes to the structure within … it wasn’t just adding new ideas, but making changes to systems already in place, using better what we already have.”

As a result of this self-directed reevaluation, CC has restructured the way in which it approves clubs, tightening its purse-strings by closing the accounts of defunct clubs and ensuring that new organizations have adequate direction and foundation before receiving CC approval and funding. Brickley credited CC Treasurer Rachel Hudson ’10 with much of this initiative, which led to the recovery of an undisclosed sum of money that CC earmarked for the “Great Ideas” campaign. According to the pair, they have approved over 20 student project proposals for funding and will be working with the student leaders over Winter Study to implement their initiatives. “Not only is this about getting 20 projects off the ground, but also it’s about building student leadership, getting people who usually don’t take up leadership roles working with administration,” Brickley said.

Despite the potential for budgetary constraints, however, Brickley and Tcheyan have made significant advances in most of the areas they outlined in their campaign and at the outset of their presidency. Last March, the current leaders promised to expand and reform club sports, academic advising, professor dinner programs and co-op housing, as well as to form a student advisory committee for budgetary priorities amidst the financial crisis and to identify and preserve key Williams institutions and traditions.

Brickley and Tcheyan were instrumental in expanding support for club sports, which they accomplished by advocating a proposal put forth last year that called for club athletes to be allowed to use the College’s athletic trainer. The co-presidents lobbied the athletics department and the administration, who institutionalized the proposal earlier this fall. In a similar move, Brickley and Tcheyan have been publicizing and attempting to reinvigorate the existing system through which students can take professors to dinner in dining halls. They have been unable, however, to expand the Lyceum Dinner program due to budget constraints. “This is one of those examples of using the resources we already have in place,” Tcheyan said.

In the vein of preserving the College’s ideals and traditions in the face of budget constraints, Brickley and Tcheyan formed a student committee with the dual goals of assessing the values of the student body (which they did through a “Budget Blitz” last spring, in which students ranked several aspects of a Williams education by importance) and relaying this information to the administration via the Ad Hoc Budget Advisory Committee. “I had a full evening where just I presented student concerns and priorities [to the Committee],” Tcheyan said. “It was great to speak directly to the administration, to get the student voice heard.”

The one agenda item that Tcheyan and Brickley deliberately pushed aside was the expansion of co-op housing. They began discussions about identifying potential buildings for conversion late last year, but decided to put off further pursuit of the initiative in deference to the massive review of residential life being undertaken by the Neighborhood Review Committee. “It’s hard to model what an expanded program would mean without knowing what the housing system will look like in the future, especially since the co-ops serve as a release valve from the neighborhood system,” Brickley said.

Under Brickley and Tcheyan, other CC members have also been able to implement new initiatives on campus. Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 spearheaded the new SophomOrientation program this fall and opened the Paresky Student Activities Resource Center as a usable space for students. Joya Sonnenfeldt ’10 has overseen the new Williams After Dark program, a series of alcohol-free weekend events that have seen high attendance.

In terms of dealing with issues that were thrown their way, both Brickley and Tcheyan said that throughout their term, they have made advocating student opinion to the administration their highest priority. In addition to the Budget Blitz, the co-presidents worked with the Neighborhood Review Committee and the Committee on Undergraduate Life this fall to organize a series of forums for critical discussion of the neighborhood system. CC has also been meeting regularly with Interim President Bill Wagner and hopes to continue meeting regularly with Incoming President Adam Falk to introduce him to what students value the most in their experience at the College.

After this year’s Purple Valley frisbee tournament yielded an unprecedented level of damages and hospital transports, Brickley and Tcheyan instigated a revision to campus’s visitor policy to increase host accountability. They have also been spearheading an effort to link international students struggling to find winter break accommodations with potential student hosts. “I think we’ve been successful in that we’ve always tried to get as much student input as possible before acting,” Tcheyan said. Additionally, both Brickley and Tcheyan were crucial in garnering support for the revised “Siberian” Mountain Day that was planned in response to the threat that the campus holiday could be cancelled outright due to inclement weather.

Both co-presidents emphasized their response to the recent homophobic incident in a Mission entry as the paradigm for how they have dealt with issues on an ad hoc basis. “We’re not dealing with this in an abstract way,” Brickley said, adding that they have been instead supporting the proposals of the Queer Student Union and Women’s Center.
Looking forward to the last few months of their term, Brickley and Tcheyan said that much of their focus will be on working with the student leaders of the “Great Ideas” project proposals they recently approved. In addition, Tcheyan said that the current CC leadership is organizing an orientation retreat for their replacements. “It took us awhile to get used to how everything works,” Tcheyan said. “This way, we hope the next CC will be able to hit the ground running.”