Following the election of Krista Pickett ’13 and Peter Skipper ’13 as College Council (CC) co-presidents, Francesca Barrett ’12 and Nick Fogel ’12 concluded their term at the helm of CC.
Over the past year, the pair presided over a council that coped with the impact of the November hate crime, made mental health an administrative priority on campus and undertook a critical evaluation of the entry system.
Upon taking office, Barrett and Fogel made strengthening the community at the College one of their top concerns. “We wanted to work on building community here at Williams,” Barrett said. “We focused on trying to bring people together. We thought about what our favorite parts of Williams were and how to expand them to provide a better sense of community on campus.”
This CC administration supported the creation of Williams Day, focused on students’ mental health, hosted a forum on entries and started the Conversation Campaign. “All of our projects fit into our original goal,” Fogel said. “It took a totally different shape in the fall, but our original goal of creating a better community stayed the same.”
Barrett and Fogel also sought to expand the efforts of former CC co-presidents Ifiok Inyang ’11 and Emanuel Yekutiel ’11. Inyang and Yekutiel focused on making CC a more transparent organization and giving students greater access to CC. Barrett and Fogel were particularly satisfied with how this transparency improved the relationship between CC and the Minority Coalition (MinCo). “We restructured College Council funding to allow for CC to better be able to support MinCo financially. We also proactively have reached out to MinCo Groups to encourage them to register as CC groups,” Barrett said. “It also allowed for better communication and a deeper relationship between the two groups.”
Barrett and Fogel also continued sending out all-campus State of the College e-mails and introduced video updates on CC’s projects. In the spring of 2011, the pair attempted to clarify how CC subgroups are funded through greater transparency with the Finance Committee.
Barrett and Fogel emphasized that the November hate crime had a profound impact on their administration, both in terms of requiring the pair to formulate an immediate response to the crime and to reevaluate their goals in light of the changing community. “It’s hard thinking back on our year to think of anything else than the hate crime because it took up so much energy and so much of our time,” Fogel said. “We wanted to make sure that it didn’t become a divisive thing … We were able to come together, learn a lot and at the same time be able to have productive conversations without having people get hurt. I think we were successful at that.”
Barrett stressed that the pair did not want CC to assume responsibility for organizing the response to the hate crime. Instead, they focused on allowing the student body to respond organically. “We knew the response couldn’t solely be a College Council issue,” Barrett said. “The only way Students Against Silence could be a meaningful to the student body would be if it were a person-to-person issue. We decided the best way to facilitate the movement was to make sure it came from the momentum of the student body, so that it didn’t become something in the system but was something students still owned.”
While the hate crime broadly affected Barrett and Fogel’s agenda, it particularly impacted their focus on mental health on campus. “It made the importance of providing better and more transparent mental health resources even more necessary,” Barrett said. “Students were dealing with an entire spectrum of mental health and well-being issues including struggling with discrimination. We had to figure out how to provide those resources and how to make sure people felt physically and mentally safe in the community.”
The hate crime encouraged Barrett and Fogel to help orchestrate a campus movement aimed towards improving mental health. “We realized how much of Williams and how many of the topics we were talking about related to mental health,” Barrett said.
“We formed the Mental Health Committee. We helped put on the first ‘You Are Not Alone’ event, which was the first way to allow for a support system at Williams for students that wanted to talk about their experiences. Since that event, people have been open to talking about their experiences and reaching out for the resources they need … This issue hopefully will stay important and will continue to improve for students on campus,” Barrett said.
As part of the duo’s focus on the community, Barrett and Fogel initiated a critical look at ways to improve the entry system. “Our biggest focus was on clarifying the goals of an entry,” Fogel said. “After the forum on entries [held earlier this fall], we’re hoping to get a document written out that clarifies the goals of an entry – very loosely [clarifies the goals] because every entry and JA is different – and expectations of a JA, so you have an idea of what makes a good entry.”
Barrett viewed the changes in regards to how the campus addresses mental health and the student movement after the hate crime as the Council’s most important contributions to the community during her co-presidency. “A legacy of this Council will be facilitating dialogue about what it means to be a responsible and safe member of the community and for advocating for that through College Council,” she said.
Fogel said he hopes his focus on helping students appreciate the College community will have a lasting impact. “One of my focuses was helping people slow down and appreciate Williams and to be intentional about everything that you do here,” Fogel said. “Be appreciative of the place and try to take advantage of it. The things we did hopefully helped people do that.”