College Council presidential candidates share campaign platforms

CC presidential candidates debated each other and presented their platforms to students in Baxter Hall. Grace Flaherty/Photo Editor.

On Feb. 15, the candidates for College Council (CC)’s 2016 election were announced to the student body via email. These presidential tickets are Jonathan Linen ’17 and Frankie Mork ’17, Michelle Bal ’17 and Caitlin Buckley ’17 and Tyrone Scafe ’17 and Jonathan Burne ’17.

The pairs represent a diverse cross-section of ambitions for and interpretations of CC and the College community. Linen and Mork are running their campaign based on a platform promoting an altered attitude of the diversity of the community. The pair has expressed a need for increased tolerance and celebration of the various types of people on the campus, marking it as the most pressing issue facing the College. Linen said, “Our main goal here is to address what we consider to be the paramount issue on campus, which is the fact that we don’t really have that understanding as a community. In a 360-degree view of this campus, there are students who don’t feel comfortable with their backgrounds … that needs to change and, for that to happen, we need strong student leadership, which is what CC offers and what we hope to take advantage of.” They aspire to curb the problem by employing CC resources to encourage interaction between different students and, as such, hopefully prompt an overwhelming attitudinal change. “We believe that promoting our paramount goal will have tangible effect.”

Mork expressed similar sentiments as his running mate. “We didn’t want to do a laundry list of specific actions in our announcement, but there are specific actions we will take, such as increasing lighting on Route 2 and the presence of two-ply toilet paper. We will try to implement those things … but our paramount goal is promoting more understanding and engagement.” One of the more specific plans they have involves facilitating a bi-weekly student-speaking forum in a public place holding it in such an atmosphere will encourage a growth in attendance and exposure to CC activity and hopefully foster the type of student engagement this pair is aiming for. As Mork commented, “We are looking to bring a fresh new perspective to College Council as well. We want people to feel comfortable interacting with College Council.”

Scafe and Burne are at the helm of a campaign based in broad, contextual ambitions. “One of our campaign slogans is, ‘momentum is our type of politics.’ One of the things that Jonathan and I are keyed into is that this is a very historical moment across the country in terms of politics, and higher education institutions are at the center of this movement, which in many ways has been characterized as the second civil rights movement. [CC President] Marcus Christian [’16] always says that this election is going to characterize the next five years of student government, so I think it is very important for whoever takes up the mantle to be well-equipped to handle that. I think it is important for the students voting to remember that we are a part of this larger context,” Scafe said. Scafe’s running mate Burne added, “What we are really striving for in this candidacy is the idea of authenticity and effectiveness and addressing this fear we have of acknowledging our weaknesses as a student body. Phrases like ‘effortless perfection’ get thrown around a lot but hasn’t really properly been examined…[CC] needs to be better at being accountable.”

Woven into this broader goal is a desire, much like Linen and Mork, to increase interaction between CC and the community. “We want to work with students. If we were to be elected we would not want our presidency to be seen as something that is top-down, and the fact that Jonathan is abroad means we are inherently going to need a strong council. We will need strong student body input. We will be collaborative leaders with the student body,” Scafe said. Burne added: “We have worked in a pretty big capacity with the big administrators on this campus and we appreciate the potential for us to interact more with them.”

As part of these goals, Burne and Scafe want to increase the transparency of CC with the integration of the new website, the continuation of office hours and surveys and an increase in open forums.

Bal and Buckley think one of the most pressing criticisms of CC is that it fails to produce tangible change evident to the student body.

“We have specific goals because we want to get things done … we have brainstormed a whole lot of tangible plans together and I am really excited to have the ability to produce tangible change, especially considering that is often a criticism of CC that often occurs,” Bal said.

Buckley joined in these sentiments: “I’m excited to have the manpower and resources to make these changes happen.”

Some of the many changes they hope to implement include a text line with security, more lighting on the roads and around the campus and increased engagement with All Campus Entertainment (ACE) and the neighborhoods as part of an active effort to improve entertainment and social life on campus. They also hope to make a concerted effort to foster wellness at the College, starting with the creation of a wellness organization using CC manpower and other groups to implement changes. Some of these include sleep clinics and SAD lamps, which mimic sunlight, in the libraries. In addition to these changes, Buckley stated that the pair hopes “to look at peer institutions and see what they are doing.” They both stated that forming a consortium of NESCAC schools and their student governmennt leaders would fit well into their platform. Accompanying their overarching ambition to institute tangible change, Bal and Buckley want to encourage increased student involvement.

“We want to make it more accessible for people to get involved and have their ideas brought up in [CC]. We want to keep the pre-existing structures for this but also add an online portal for anyone to access from any part of campus,” Buckley said.

Along with each pairs’ particular ambitions for the job come three different sets of unique experiences within the College community.

“As an individual, I have been engaged in a lot of different circles on campus and I do genuinely care about the Williams community, both here on campus and at large. We talk about showing the difference between performative commitment and actual commitment but, if you were to look back at every candidate’s body of work, I don’t think that their work can speak to the same level and breadth that my experiences have,” Scafe said.

“I feel like I’ve been talking about this a lot but … tying together my study abroad experience with deciding to run, the experiences that I have had here and outside of Williams really do enrich the experiences I have had [at] Williams,” Burne said.

Linen and Mork, on the other hand, believe their best qualification lies in their fresh perspective.

Mork said, “If you’re looking to see if we have extensive College Council background, we don’t. But I think that’s a strength for us; we have a fresh perspective. Our current college president Marcus did not have college council experience prior to this and we are very impressed with what he did.”

Linen added that although his experience might lie outside the bounds of CC, he has had experience on a sports team and in the general College community and that “Frank and I have always tried to be what we want the student body to be. I try to be gregarious and interact with all sorts of people.” He added that the pair sat down with Marcus a few days ago to talk to him about his experience and reiterated that “you have to interact with people, you have to listen, you have to engage. We will not do this halfway. We will fully commit to making opportunities for students to interact with College Council more robust.”

Bal, by comparison, is a seasoned member of CC.

“Of any of the candidates I have been on CC for the longest time, since freshman spring. Having seen CC over many years, I have had the opportunity to see what has worked and what has failed and why,” Bal said. “Also, being vice president for student affairs this year has placed me on several student committees that have shown me a lot of the different ways in which the school can work and how we can engage with that,” she said.

Buckley, on the other hand, stated, “I have been involved in a variety of different things different from Michelle. I have only had one semester of experience on CC; I’m hoping that I can bring a fresh perspective from my other experiences in the community. For example, being on the committee on the new bookstore has given me experience on soliciting ideas from different areas of campus and interacting with different facets of the community.”

The pair says that their experience working together is an asset.

“We have worked together since freshman fall and so our dynamic is very well trained. We were on FroCo together freshmen fall so have dealt with a variety of issues together and leading meetings together,” Bal said. To this, Buckley added, “We want this to be a fun semester, so we think that our dynamic will be conducive.”

Amanni Fernandez ’18 has dropped out of the running for CC president.

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