Former CC co-presidents reflect upon successes of their tenure

After one year of serving as College Council (CC) co-presidents, Ifiok Inyang ’11 and Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 have ended their term and are succeeded by Francesca Barrett ’12 and Nick Fogel ’12, who will begin their leadership with tonight’s CC meeting.

During their campaign last year, Inyang and Yekutiel stressed the importance of transparency within CC.

“I think that we achieved a lot of our goals in terms of increasing the transparency of CC and informing students not only of things that we’ve done but also of things that were in the development stages,” said Inyang. He said that the monthly State of the Union e-mails have given students the opportunity to e-mail the CC presidents and respond with instant feedback, suggestions and ideas.

Yekutiel said they would receive between 60 and 100 e-mail responses after each State of the Union. “There was a steady stream of feedback throughout our term,” he said.

“I think students really felt comfortable seeking us out with a lot of their concerns because we more than met them halfway,” Inyang said.

Yekutiel noted that the pair “wanted to use technology to connect with the student body.” They hired a technology manager to revamp the CC web page, uploaded historical documents and the weekly CC minutes to the page and also connected the site to WSO.

One of the issues that required immediate attention from the outgoing co-presidents last spring was working with Dining Services after the College announced the closing of Dodd and Greylock dining halls.

“We realized a few things,” Yekutiel said. “One, we weren’t going to be able to change the decision [that the administration] made; two, they were making the right decision and three, we should use this opportunity to hold the administration accountable for the changes that needed to be made to the dining experience to make the transition work.”

Bob Volpi, director of Dining Services, said that the CC co-presidents, council members and members of the Implementation Committee have been “terrific.”

“We could have never made all the changes possible without their valuable input,” he said. “They have been an awesome group to work with.”

Yekutiel said he and Inyang worked with Steve Klass, vice president for operations, to create the Implementation Committee, which worked throughout the summer “to ensure that the right changes were going to be made and to ensure that the dining experience at Williams was the same if not better than it had been in recent years,” Yekutiel said. He noted that even though the administration had a plan for the future, “we had an opportunity to change some things that needed to be changed about dining anyway.”

These changes, which CC and Dining Services worked together to accomplish, included menu and structural changes in the ’82 Grill, extended hours and availability at all dining halls, the remodeling of Driscoll, new food options in Mission and a second Grab ’n Go location at the Eco Café.

Another CC initiative was to provide a larger presence of student art on campus.

“We thought that Williams students are obviously talented in a variety of ways, and I think that the art community primarily lives in Spencer art studio and a lot of great work happens here,” Inyang said. “We wanted to bring the art that is created there to more campus spaces and make it thus more accessible.”

CC has looked at ways to install art in the College libraries and in Paresky.

“In this fall semester, we tried to work on crafting a good mechanism for collecting the art and putting the art up,” Yekutiel said. The initiative will be expanded into the spring.

He also noted that he and Inyang have worked on an initiative to “bring Williams history to the experience of students.” The co-presidents worked with the College archives and Krista Pickett ’13, former Class of 2013 Representative and now CC secretary, to design 18 bronze plaques which were placed in most dormitories. The plaques explain the history of the dorms and how the buildings got their names.

The creation of the Capital Investment Fund (CIF) was another major CC undertaking. The fund was established after the College’s sailing team approached CC with a need for costly replacement boats this fall.

“We realized that because of the nature of certain student groups, every three or four or five years they’ll need larger investments to sustain their organizations,” Inyang said. “[The fund] was created from dealing with the sailing team, and how for years they had a need to replace some of their boats. There was no real mechanism within CC to deal with capital investment for a group.”

According to Barrett, the former CC treasurer, the CIF “is a fund meant to aid clubs that necessitate long term and larger investments for the continued existence of their club,” she said.

Barrett said that CC plans to advertise for the fund in the spring to make sure it is widely available to student groups whom it will benefit. Going forward, CC will continue to endow the fund with money every year.

Over the past year, CC has worked to encourage more use of campus spaces, including dining halls, the Log on Spring Street, Greylock and Dodd. Yekutiel mentioned that especially in Driscoll and the ’82 Grill, “dining halls are more beautiful and also have better ambiance.”

Yekutiel said that after the closing of Dodd and Greylock dining halls, CC aimed to make sure the spaces were utilized effectively. The bottom floor of the Greylock parking garage is now open for students at night, and plans are on the table to potentially transform currently unused space within Dodd into more dormitories.

Yekutiel and Inyang also spent their term sparking discussions about important community issues, such as differences between athletes and non-athletes. CC hosted an all-campus forum on the topic last fall, and this year’s Claiming Williams featured several events that focused on the athletics dialogue.

In discussing what tangible changes stemmed from CC’s taking up the discussion, Yekutiel described both “structural” and “community” changes. “We put on the spring Purple Key Fair so that people who wanted to try out new things could have the opportunity to explore,” he said. “The TeamEph program is being changed. It will have TeamEph leaders. There will be a division of the day [during First Days], so TeamEph participants will be able to spend time with students in other programs,” Yekutiel said.

In terms of the actual athletics discussion, which Yekutiel noted was broached by other council members as well as coaches, athletes and non-athletes, CC “very rarely does this, but we sent out official letters to faculty, JAs and coaches, to let those bodies know what we learned throughout our various discussions,” he said.

Inyang said that some rewards that have grown from the discussion include “seeing people take a critical eye on the hallmarks of our community” and “being real about some of the areas that we really need to improve upon.”

In addition to athletics, the outgoing CC co-presidents have also invested a significant amount of time this fall in the discussion on over-enrollment, as well as the recent all-campus e-mail on homophobia.

“If a student brings a social issue to us, we have a duty to address it,” Yekutiel said. “We worked on the social issues that were brought to us, but there are many many more issues that affect Williams College,” specifically including racism, classism and sexual assault.

The pair said that they consider their most significant accomplishments proving to the student body that CC has the ability to affect change, raising the level of expectation for CC members and making previous CC presidents proud.

In the spirit of imparting wisdom to the incoming CC presidents, Inyang advised Barrett and Fogel to “reach out as much as you can, to be available and to not be afraid to engage in the tough conversations that need to happen.”

“My advice would be to find the balance between really listening to people and also not being afraid to represent who you are,” Yekutiel said. “Listen to people, learn from people … but also don’t be afraid to advocate for what you think is right.”