I sit in a unique position on campus. I have been a representative on College Council (CC) since freshman fall, and I helm a Neighborhood Governance Board and the boards of two Minority Coalition (MinCo) subgroups. My combination of roles on campus has allowed me to gain insight into the inner workings of student governance on campus and to realize the many problems that exist between them.
Unfortunately, these groups on campus work in an insular fashion, and poor communication amongst the groups often cripples them. As a committed member of each organization, I often feel that a conflict of interests tears me apart. The groups I am a part of do not take advantage of All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) or Williams College Radio (WCFM) when hiring a band, nor do they collaborate across subgroups to hold a joint cooking night. We do not tap into shared interests, and are too proud to use the strengths of others to bolster our own deficiencies. Too often it has been the case that many events fight for attention on one Friday night while the next three weekends lack substantive events. Moreover, if a subgroup needs funding for an event, there is no incentive to ask the loaded neighborhood boards for finances due to the bureaucracy of funding requests. Neighborhoods may only be able to grant a couple hundred dollars, and the money may not be worth the hassle. Instead, these subgroups cut down on an event’s provisions or end up with fewer events.
This vicious cycle wherein groups do not know where to turn for help and in turn do not offer help to other groups debilitates the relationships between them. Competition forces groups to vie for the attention of a limited number of students. Our student leaders are fighting a losing battle. The enthusiasm at the start of freshman year often dwindles by the end of sophomore year due to failed events, a small, niche audience and an impossible schedule. Every group has the occasional galvanizing force manifested in a student leader, but outside of that, there is no secure manner of assuring future success.
A second, harder to gauge variable exists in this equation – one that is harder to gauge. Students at the College take challenging classes, play sports, practice music and are active in student groups. Their own drive to indulge in personal interests does not allow them to explore those of others. Soccer practice, for example, may conflict with that intriguing talk at 5 p.m. in Griffin 3, or a dinner meeting might conflict with a documentary screening with the director speaking at 7 p.m. in Paresky Auditorium. There is no real choice between a brown bag lunch in Hardy and English at 12:35. Although this self-absorption is a result of a productive schedule, it is nonetheless stifling.
Frankly, I do not know how to address this problem with an easy solution. A start would be to open more channels of communication between groups, whether through a bi-weekly meeting between social chairs or presidents where every group can claim a night and ask another for things like concert ideas or additional funding, or through another means. This synergy should become the ubiquitous standard for communication. We could also create a Web site to hold all calendar events, which can exist in conjunction with the social calendar e-mail sent out every week by CC. We would also have to coordinate with those who administer the events calendar on the College Web site, which showcases lectures and visiting speakers. Through these measures, we can plan together and create larger-scale events geared towards a greater number of people. There have been events in the past year – dinners and lectures where a significant amount of money was spent – where a minimal number of people show up, and money is quite literally wasted. This inefficiency may be reduced by better communication. As Abe Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We should stop defeating ourselves and collaborate.
Elizabeth Jimenez ’12 is from Bronx, N.Y. She lives in Fayerweather.