College Council debates set stage for elections

On Sunday, students congregated in Baxter Hall to listen to the annual College Council (CC) speeches and debate. Although the evening centered on the CC co-presidential candidates’ debate between Ifiok Inyang ’11 and Emanuel Yekutiel ’11, and Jon Foster ’11 and Mike Leon ’11, the evening began with candidates for class representatives and minority concerns representative. Record editors Yue-Yi Hwa ’11 and Katy Gathright ’12 moderated the debate.

In their three-minute opening statement, Inyang and Yekutiel emphasized their prior CC experience and general involvement with myriad College organizations. “We have seen and worked with three sets of CC co-presidents and councils and participated in a ton of meetings and projects, learning what works and what doesn’t,” they said, adding that “our experience will let us focus on the right issues and hit the ground running in the spring.”
Both underscored the importance of CC’s role as a liaison between the student body and the College administration. “A large part of the position involves reacting to issues on campus and ensuring that students’ voices are heard,” Inyang and Yekutiel said.

After introducing their ticket on a humorous note, Foster and Leon outlined their platform’s primary objectives. Citing the restrictions that budget cuts have imposed on the potential for large-scale projects, the candidates instead proposed to effect change through a wide array of smaller, quality-of-life issues, a platform the candidates christened “a thousand little changes.” Echoing the sentiments of Inyang and Yekutiel, Foster and Leon asserted the importance of CC’s involvement with the student body, promising to incorporate students’ minor quality-of-life concerns into the CC decision-making process.

Following introductory statements, candidates were asked their views on CC’s importance. Foster and Leon expressed that the perception of CC as ineffectual and irrelevant stemmed from students’ unwillingness to voice their concerns to CC. Although CC gives students the opportunity to “have more of a say in the administration’s policy and distribution of funds,” the lack of actual student input precludes such involvement. “Most students have more than one good idea about what aspects of Williams they would like to change, but do not speak up,” they said.

Inyang and Yekutiel expressed similar sentiment. “Students need a stronger voice in this time of transition and great change,” Yekutiel said. In addition to presenting general statements regarding CC’s role as mediator, Inyang and Yekutiel cited changes to the Multicultural Center and budgets as examples that warrant greater student involvement to “ensure that the administration’s changes reflect [students’] wishes and policies that they can live with,” particularly in light of new presidential leadership.

When asked what President-elect Falk should focus on first upon his arrival, Inyang and Yekutiel continued along related lines. Stating that Falk should “utilize student opinions in making decisions designed to meet the novel circumstances confronting the school,” Inyang and Yekutiel mirrored their opponents’ platform, adding that Falk should also “find creative ways to improve Williams at low cost.”

Foster and Leon expressed the importance of establishing a close relationship between the president and the student body. “The president should seek to build a closer, warmer relationship with students than the one established through bi-annual speeches and occasional e-mails,” they said. “[Falk] should seek out student opinions to aid in decision-making. Small, targeted, practical changes that improve students’ quality of life are what are most needed.”

On the issue of housing reform, Foster and Leon stressed the necessity of greater free agency but did not advocate abolishing the neighborhood system altogether. Despite stating that “there should be greater ease switching from one neighborhood to another to permit friends to live with friends,” they also maintained that “there should also be a better organized system of neighborhood leadership and promotion of neighborhood activities.”

Inyang and Yekutiel also supported increased free agency and neighborhood leadership reform, provided that reforms do not affect neighborhood demographics. “We support increased ease of transition as long as it doesn’t undermine the diversity of neighborhood populations, leaving them each representative of the student body as a whole,” Inyang said. Generally, Inyang and Yekutiel believed that “neighborhood governance boards should be empowered to make more decisions.”

The debate concluded with each ticket posing a question to its opponent. Inyang and Yekutiel questioned Foster and Leon’s “thousand little changes” platform, arguing that CC is singularly capable of addressing larger issues. In response, Foster stated that although the “co-presidents serve as magnets for student ideas which will be reflected in small, practical changes,” they are also a medium through which to “amplify the students’ voices to become stronger through better connections with the student body.”

Foster and Leon asked Inyang and Yekutiel how they “planned to engage the campus intellectually.” Inyang and Yekutiel responded that they planned to supplement the close student-faculty relationships already inherent to Williams by making “opportunities for faculty and students to have intellectually-engaging experiences outside of class” and by “breaking down the barriers that impede student-faculty interaction.”

Both tickets reiterated their earlier remarks in their closing statements. Inyang and Yekutiel expressed a “dedication to bringing the opinions and desires of the student body to the attention of the administration,” while Foster and Leon repeated their “small, targeted, practical changes” platform and cited their lack of CC experience as conducive to bringing a new perspective to student body politics.

Polls open tonight at 10 p.m. and close on Friday at the same time.

Additional reporting by Eden Amerson, staff writer.

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