Changing Williams

The College Council (CC) elections have come and gone, but none of us have lost our opportunity to change Williams. Taking office in CC is an assumption of duties – meetings, canvassing and other such actions as needed, but these jobs are not the exclusive channels of campus change. Manny and If won the election, but 236 of our peers preferred Jon and Mike, and their ideas could change this campus for the better. Our student body is too small for us to get wrapped up in the angst of which idea belongs to whom – if it works, then it should be supported. CC meetings are open for all to attend and speak.

We already have other leaders in the Junior Advisors, who shape the experience of first-years more than any other group; the Minority Coalition leaders, who plan programming in support of their members; team captains, who organize social events and help make their teams as strong as possible; and (at least for the moment) Neighborhood Governance Boards, who plan programming and represent their residents.

All of these opportunities are great, but they also require a selection process, ignoring that everyone already possesses one of the most powerful titles for change at this institution: student. Almost anything you want to do on this campus can be done, though you have to be willing to put in the legwork. I was able to organize a voter registration drive last fall, using two copiers borrowed from the Dean’s Office, and a massive election night event with pizza boxes that stacked up to be taller than me, funded by a variety of offices. But you don’t need funding, either. Goodrich and Bronfman have big screens for movies, and Goodrich can also play TV via its projector. The Equipment Loan Center has cameras, microphones, screens, speakers and more, all available for free to students for three-day periods. While you do need to reserve spaces and equipment in advance, there’s nothing keeping you from doing it one day beforehand.

Most importantly, you have the opportunity to serve on student-faculty committees. Students and faculty representatives have a balanced vote on the Committee on Educational Policy, which approves all academic proposals before the faculty considers them, and the Committee on Undergraduate Life, which recommends policy on all non-academic issues. Four of our peers have been heavily involved in the Neighborhood Review, and when you submit a 99 Project proposal for Winter Study, it’s reviewed by a committee that consists of 44 percent students. All committee membership candidates will be nominated later this spring.
Even if committees aren’t your cup of tea, you can get money from CC or college offices to run your own events, get involved with an existing club or start your own group. If you don’t want to help a specific club, you can get hired as a Goodrich tech to run its events for pay, or work to improve Williams facilities as a student employee of Office for Information Technology or Campus Life.
We live on a campus where you can get a meeting with a dean or vice president within the week you request it, and where other officers are accessible via e-mail. I know Ifiok and Emanuel; both will always be down to chat with you about Williams. It’s a small campus and your designated leaders are very accessible: Don’t let them stay in ignorance about an issue, expecting them to be magically aware. They’ve got the same brain you possess, and so many meetings that they may not have the time to notice important details that you see.

Ultimately, no one knows what’s wrong with your experience at Williams but you. We walk around in a myth of “effortless perfection,” pretending that everything is wonderful for us and Williams, but there are issues everywhere. All of us struggle. If you feel that no one is responding to what aggrieves you, do something about it. In every moment I’ve reached out to change something at Williams, I’ve either been successful or come away understanding what makes my idea difficult – I’ve yet to be discouraged or given the cold shoulder.

On this campus, more than anywhere I’ve ever been, anyone can make change. There’s nothing to stop you but your fear: Go change your Williams for the better.

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