On Thursday, Krista Pickett ’13 and Peter Skipper ’13 claimed the College Council (CC) co-presidency, winning by a margin of 1128 to 152 votes over Darryl Brown ’13 and Kevin O’Connell ’13. Fifty-nine percent of students voted, a 5-percent decrease from voter turnout in the last two years. The new co-presidents sat down with Record Executive Editor Todd Brenner to reflect on the election and discuss their plans for the coming year.
What were your initial reactions to this year’s election results?
Pickett: We were pleased, humbled [and] I think a healthy sense of overwhelmed in knowing what the job is and having [outgoing CC co-presidents] Nick [Fogel ’12] and Francesca [Barrett ’12] tell us, “You’re it.” We’re also excited, obviously.
Skipper: We were both really pleased with the turnout in terms of people who voted. It’s very difficult to describe how I feel, because on one hand, [we were] very happy that [we] got elected, but because we had a general idea of what we were getting ourselves into, there was a healthy level of stressful expectation that we feel. After the election, we looked at each other, smiled and said, “Well, I guess it’s time to get to work.”
What have you learned from the campaign process?
Pickett: Our platform was shaped in a lot of ways by talking to students not only during the campaign but also during the past two-and-a-half years. We learned a lot about the perception of Council, where it’s working, how students want to use it and what they’re looking for [from it].
Skipper: We’ve also learned the value of communication and collaboration. One of the things we heard consistently [in] meetings with students was that CC is strongest as a resource when it can connect students and student groups to the resources they need; a lot of that hinges on communication. So in talking to student groups, we heard over and over again that more communication between student groups and CC would be beneficial, and that’s why we place such a large emphasis on collaboration, because it’s something we’ve actually heard.
Pickett: And it was really impressed upon us that a lot of people are doing really great work, and Council is a part of that, but it cannot do everything that it wants to do alone. Just practically reaching out to students, which is so educational … we want to keep doing that.
What elements of the opposition’s campaign will you integrate into your future plans?
Skipper: I don’t think we need to integrate them because a lot of their really great points were already present in our platform. We obviously think that issues of rape and sexual assault are serious, and we need to keep having conversations about them. And we want Council to be more transparent and more accessible … so not really a response to their campaign but more agreement that those are areas where Council can improve.
Pickett: And what we heard too, especially at the Q&A session, was that people don’t think that Council is relevant, and that was part of their platform. They wanted to make [CC] very visible [by moving meetings to] Paresky and that’s what we want to do too, but in different ways. So making it more approachable, accessible and communicating better.
What are your main goals for your term as co-presidents?
Pickett: We have three major lenses through which we’re looking at Council. One is looking at the way that CC functions, making it more transparent, more relevant and just a better Council. Another is looking at the way that CC can improve everyday life … the smaller projects, Great Ideas Campaign-style.
Skipper: Trying to get Hollander and Schapiro open until 2 a.m., trying to extend late-night hours in Snack Bar…
Pickett: And those are things that people approach Council for already. Then there are things that we want to talk about and address, things we don’t have all the answers to and that we hope to at least start the conversation and work with others on. Things like mental health … anywhere on campus where students don’t feel supported or safe – that’s what we’re looking to make better. And within that, continuing the work that [Fogel and Barrett] started with the Students Against Silence movement, seeing how Council can advocate for safer spaces and [ending] hate and discrimination.
Skipper: [Also] under that first category of making Council more efficient, just to be more specific, we’re talking about how the Council meets, so opening the CC Campus meeting to the entire Council so that everyone has a say in what is on our agenda for the week, putting more questions to student referenda – which is what a lot of our peer institutions do when they make large funding decisions. That will give CC a sense of how students feel about certain issues. [We will also be] going through our bylaws and clarifying them, especially our funding bylaws. We’re also going to make sure that our website is updated and maintained. We’re going to try and overhaul the whole website.
Pickett: All that may not sound glamorous, and the truth is that it’s not, but in our experience we can’t be as productive and as efficient as we want to be without addressing that stuff first.
What’s the first thing on your to-do list?
Pickett: We are going to have a discussion where we ask Council about the smaller and bigger [issues] they want to work on, specifically for the spring but also for the whole year.
Skipper: We have a few ideas for the agenda – creating the task force to address the social scene [and] looking at the structure of College Council. These are things we want to initiate early on, but we don’t have a set agenda; we want to wait until we have all of College Council in the room to officially set it. We are opening up our Sunday night organizational meeting to the entire College Council, while in the past, that meeting was only open to the eight year-long representatives.
How will your CC seek to bring students and administrators together to address tough issues such as rape and sexual assault and prejudice on campus?
Pickett: We’re lucky in that we have experience working [within] the framework of Council but also working with other groups. I guess our role is going to be to just keep our ears to the ground, anticipating issues before they happen. And because we [will be] consistently talking to students, going to group meetings, having liaisons [and] calling student-faculty committees into CC to update us what they’re working on, it won’t need to be that when an issue arises then we address it and figure out the protocol; we will have been doing this all along and we will have established relationships [as well].
Skipper: Specifically, with regard to Students Against Silence and rape and sexual assault, the role of CC is to advocate for student interests with the administration. So we [plan on] being in close communication with the leaders of the movements and asking them what we can do to help because CC as a body can’t be as informed about these issues as the students that are invested in those organizations.
What skills do each of you bring to the table?
Pickett: [Skipper] is very logical, very smart … and what’s inspiring about [him] is that he has approached Council from so many different perspectives – both as a semester-long rep and as someone applying for funding through the Springstreeters and College Democrats – he understands how Council works but also sees the areas where it needs to improve.
Skipper: [Pickett] is great because she knows everyone and knows everything about Council. She has such depth of experience on Council and she cares so much about it. It’s very easy for us to look at the ways CC can be improved in very productive ways. We have a really good dynamic, we work well together, we can be honest with each other and we’re able to be…
What do you foresee your biggest challenges being this year?
Skipper: There are always the challenges you don’t expect, the things that come up that surprise you and being able to adapt to them and react in a positive way. I think having conversations about the things that aren’t glamorous, especially about the structure of CC, because [these conversations] really do impact how effective of a body we are, but it’s very difficult to explain to someone not on CC what it means when you describe the way we have Dodd board reps and Dodd at-large reps and the way [CC] is structured now. That’s going to be a challenge for us.
Pickett: Making even the unglamorous aspects of CC very relevant, because we’ve heard that that’s something that people would care about if we start the dialogue.
What do you want your term as College Council co-presidents to be remembered for?
Pickett: I hope that by next year people view Council as something that is relevant to them in little ways and in big ways; that it’s not afraid to start difficult conversations; that it’s approachable; and that it has done a lot of good work in terms of mental health.
Skipper: If we can walk away from a CC next year that has a more clearly-defined role on campus and if people are aware of that and Council as a body is more grounded in that role, I think I’ll be really happy. If we can really go back to empowering the individual members on CC and get them to be more engaged – to take on projects of their own – that’s also something that will have huge impacts down the road. [We want to] create a culture of initiative and responsibility within all the members of CC, so that it’s not just the co-presidents but every member of Council [that] feels a sense of ownership and responsibility.