It’s election season. Midterm election primaries are over nationwide, and candidates are ramping up their efforts to appeal to constituents. Americans are frustrated with a Congress dogged by partisanship and a lack of definitive action.
As the College’s own election season begins, I start to reflect on our own political system. There are some pretty clear differences: on campus, the student body numbers approximately 2000, while the U.S. Census Bureau has the population of the United States at over 316 million. The constituency of College Council (CC) consists only of students in their late teens and early 20s; Congress is elected by citizens of a much wider variety of vocations and ages. Adding the word “student” before “government” makes a big difference: CC is responsible for clubs and student life, while the duties of Congress extend to all realms of organized society.
Despite these obvious distinctions, there are those who argue that CC, like Congress, is bureaucratic, inaccessible and slow to achieve concrete results.
And yes, some of these accusations may be true. CC has a set of procedures and rules that it must follow. We conduct meetings with parliamentary procedure. The College as an institution operates on a time scale that seems incomprehensibly slow to us students, who only witness a brief window of its history.
That being said, statistically speaking, there will never be a time when each of us can have more political impact than in our four years here. (I’ll make some exceptions for Williams grads who become Commander-in-Chief or Senator of California or something.) The proportion of students who serve on CC at a given time is over 10,000 times greater than the proportion of citizens who serve in Congress (calculate it: CC has 25 members; Congress has 535).
Plus, no political parties exist at Williams. That means that the politics of CC are minimal – yes, there are elections, but no, no one’s going to scour your driving record or ridicule you if you lose. It also means that members of CC support one another and collaborate to get things done. Council’s main slowdown comes from having to work with the College’s administration. Often, this can mean that it’s hard for students to see the work that Council is doing. For example, an entire year of dialogue preceded the change to an open housing lottery from one limited by neighborhoods. One of the Class of 2014 Representatives last semester will never see his vision for FacTrak come to fruition, though we’re planning on rolling it out this semester.
But how many times have you thought to yourself, “I really wish I could do X?” Or, “I think Williams needs Y.” Or, “I think Z needs to change.” I’d be willing to bet $425,000 that that thought has floated through the mind of every last Eph – including those in the Class of 2018. X might be to “rent a bike for a week on campus” or to “go off the meal plan as a senior living on campus.” Y could be “a trainer dedicated to club sports,” “a microwave in Eco Café” or “more ways to explore career opportunities.” Z might be as small as “the flavor of froyo at Mission” or as big as “the Exploring Diversity Initiative.”
Some of these things – a bike rental program, a club sports trainer and a microwave in Eco Café – now exist because of College Council. Some of them – like the meal plan and career exploration resources – are problems that have been brought to CC’s attention and that we’ve started to work on this semester. And some of them – like the Exploring Diversity Initiative – are big topics that haven’t come up in CC yet, but you could be the person to start the conversation, whether or not you’ve ever been on College Council before.
You might have noticed that the amount of money I bet is a really specific number. $425,000 is CC’s annual budget (technically, $95 per student per semester). I wagered that sum because I know that every single student here has the awareness to notice things that could be better, the critical thinking skills to ask why this institution is the way it is now and the creativity to imagine a better Williams.
This is a call to action. It doesn’t matter whether you are introverted or extroverted, senior or first-year, new to CC or a permanent resident of Hopkins 001. We are members of the Williams community, just as we are members of political systems of our home nations, and it is our right and our duty to make our voices heard. There’s just one big difference: the 2000 of us have an enhanced ability to make change.
Erica Moszkowski ’15 is an economics and computer science double major from New York, NY. She lives in Susie Hopkins.