On Saturday, Adrian Castro ’14 and Max Heninger ’14 won the College Council (CC) co-presidency. In an election with 64-percent voter turnout, their ticket garnered 67 percent of the vote to the 33 percent received by Emily Calkins ’14 and Ayodele Ekhator ’15. Record Managing Editor Nicole Smith ’14 discussed Castro and Heninger’s vision for CC.
What is your main goal for your term?
Castro: One of our main goals is to utilize the [vice presidential] (VP) structure in a very efficient way. This is the first year that College Council [CC] has ever had this type of structure, so it’s going to be very interesting not only coming up with a set of responsibilities for every vice president, but also trying to move forward and find a way to balance the VPs and Council. [Heninger] and I also want to try to accomplish everything we campaigned for and also empower everyone else to work on the issues they specifically want to work on, all in one year. It seems pretty easy because of the amount of time we have, but it’s still going to be tough.
Heninger: Let’s break it down by VP. For academic affairs, it’s probably going to be looking at the Honor Code and how can we increase the culture around it to foster the intellectual environment that we aspire to have. For student affairs, the issue that comes to mind is a lot of what we talked about on the campaign with [All-Campus Entertainment] (ACE). How can we have a meaningful co-sponsorship fund for ACE so they can empower student groups planning entertainment events with both financial and logistical support? How big should the fund be? To answer those types of questions, we’d want the VP of student affairs and the treasurer to work together. There are going to be areas like that with overlap.
Castro: On top of all that, we’re trying to continue the legacy of Krista [Pickett ’13] and Peter [Skipper ’13] and continue some of the work that they’ve done. Something that Nick [Fogel ’12] and Francesca [Barrett ’12] talked about during their term and [Pickett] and [Skipper] continued talking about this past year was rape and sexual assault and mental health on campus. That’s something we definitely want to continue talking about in great detail. Additionally, we want to continue programs like Community Matters and SuperFan because those are examples of services the student body asked for and really like. As you can tell, we have a pretty loaded plate.
Looking at the VP and co-president’s relationship, what problems do you have to look out for given how new these positions are?
Heninger: Because the VPs will be spearheading many of Council’s initiatives in place of the co-presidents, it will be the presidents’ job to know what everyone’s projects are, what conversations are happening, where there’s overlap and where people can work together. Part of giving people responsibility is making sure that they’re in a position where they can be successful with it. A big part of what we’re going to do is to put people in positions where they can succeed.
Looking back at the campaign of Calkins and Ekhator, what will you take from their campaign and the conversation that began from this election?
Castro: One of the most important lessons I learned from their campaign is that we need to remember people that may not be involved in Council and find ways to keep them engaged. As secretary, that was one of my goals this year; obviously though, Council isn’t – and will never be – perfect. What we saw in this election was that 65 percent of the student body voted, and I know that a large part of that new constituency had to do with who [Calkins] and [Ekhator] reached out to. We want to continually remind ourselves that while Council may be making positive changes to campus, we need to continually move forward and try to get more people involved each and every step of the way.
Heninger: If we’re thinking about how to get people involved with Council, a big thing for us it finding ways to get first-year students more involved. Just looking at how many candidates there were for the Class of 2016, we can see that there are qualified people aren’t going to be on CC this year because the election was so contested. We want students like that to have more ways to get involved. We’ll be looking into opening up the College committee system so that next year during Winter Study, freshmen might have the chance to apply to some of them.
What student groups do you see playing a big role in your tenure?
Castro: One is definitely [the Minority Coalition] (MinCo). When we all entered as freshmen, there were severed ties between CC and MinCo; The relationship back then wasn’t as strong as it is now. If we can continue moving forward and work with MinCo, we’ll be able to have a much stronger community. Something we talked about a lot in the campaign was that we don’t want MinCo to deal with diversity and minority issues and CC everything else. We want it to be a campus where CC and MinCo work on these issues together as a unit, not as two separate entities.
Heninger: Another group that comes to mind is [the Student Athletics Advisory Committee] (SAAC). [Pickett] was a huge part of making SuperFan what it is, and now that she’s not going to be directly involved, we need make sure that we have similarly passionate people stepping up. The SuperFan resolution CC passed last week is a good first step because it establishes a committee comprised of members of CC, SAAC and other campus representatives. However, it’s important we find the right people to fill those positions and we’re looking forward to working with SAAC to do that.
Castro: Another two groups that are tightly linked are [Rape and Sexual Assault Network] (RASAN) and the Mental Health Committee. [Pickett] did a lot for Mental Health Committee and they had a great relationship with RASAN. We want to ensure that as the number of instances [of rape and sexual assault and mental health issues] at the College increases, which may of course be tied to reporting increasing at the College, we work with Dean Bolton and different working groups on these issues.
Heninger: We also want to talk about neighborhoods. As long as the neighborhoods have the financial resources to be major sources of co-sponsorship, there will always be student groups knocking at their doors. It’s a conversation that I hope will play out now that the neighborhoods will have an active role in managing the ACE co-sponsorship fund. As it stands, the neighborhoods are going to be a part of the ACE board making the co-sponsorship decisions This opens up a great of opportunity for neighborhoods to come together to co-sponsor all-campus events with ACE. The conversation does not have to be the neighborhoods versus ACE and CC. We want to make sure it’s a consensus building exercise that makes co-sponsorship work better for everyone.
What do you see as the greatest issue facing Williams students right now and what can your administration do about it?
Castro: We see a community that’s struggling to get back on its feet right now for several different reasons. One of those reasons is that we’ve had a lot of bias incidents the last few years. We want to work with MinCo and other groups on campus to talk about these issues and work with the community to rebuild it and make it much stronger. We also want to talk with ACE about the social scene at the College, which also factors into this struggling community. A lot of people, like first-years (since I live with them as as JA), talk about how broken of a scene we have: Some weekends you have things going on, other weekends you have nothing at all. There’s no continuity throughout the semester. That’s another aspect of the Williams community that isn’t running as efficiently as it could and an issue that a lot people want Council to work on.
Heninger: I don’t think there’s one specific issue. A lot of things that students care about came out during the campaign because that’s what the campaign is for, to give students an opportunity to say what they want CC to work on. The issues we campaigned for give a pretty good roadmap of where we’d like CC and the school to go in the future.
Following the leadership of Pickett and Skipper, what will you guys emulate from their relationship and leadership that you want to emulate in your Council?
Heninger: You said it all right there. It’s their relationship, their partnership and how they worked together to maximize their effectiveness and address as many issues as they can. We have the opportunity to expand on that idea by building a strong relationship with each of our VPs.
Castro: We want to be frank with everyone involved … If we’re not doing a great job, I hope they tell us. If we’re doing a great job, I hope they tell us. We want open lines of communication so we can have a successful Council.
What part of your dynamic do you see as essential to your presidency?
Castro: [Heninger] was not a part of the executive committee last year and was not directly involved in the behind-the-scenes daily actions of Council. That’s really important. Sometimes, it’s harder to think outside of the box because you’ve been working internally … [Heninger] can bring in an outside perspective and speak not only as a Council member, but as someone who wasn’t a part of the behind-the-scenes operations. That’s really important and so is having someone who is used to working internally.
Heninger: On the flip side of that, [Castro] brings a knowledge of CC that is unprecedented in this position. He knows the technicalities, the institutional history and the limits of CC’s powers under the bylaws. That kind of knowledge will be essential as we work together to serve the student body.
How do you envision the role of CC on campus?
Heninger: CC needs to be a voice for the student body to the administration. How we articulate that voice is one of the wonderful challenges of Council. We want to know that voice like it was our own and recognize all of its pitches and octaves. We can’t do that if we don’t venture out of the CC suite in Paresky. Perhaps what excites me most about being able to delegate to the VPs is that [Castro] and I will have the time to go out into the College community more often and listen to students’ concerns and ideas.
Castro: In the end, CC is a representative body and it should be doing what the student body wants. Not everyone on campus is connected with each other, so CC’s role is also to remind students of what other groups on campus want and to bring the community together on many of these different issues.