As College Council (CC) begins its fall term following the chaos and controversy of last semester, we encourage its members to consider the following issues and suggestions. We recognize that there is much work and thought required to restore confidence in CC and acknowledge that this list is not comprehensive, but hope that it is a constructive first step as CC begins reform.
Last spring, when CC denied Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) registered student organization (RSO) status, members voted anonymously, and the meeting was not livestreamed. We call for the council to name members and specify their votes in a minutes document accessible to anyone with a College email account We also encourage CC to publish full and accurate transcripts of meetings and develop policies for granting anonymity to guests concerned about safety given the public backlash some students have endured in the past. Student constituents deserve to understand the decisions made by their elected officials, so openness and clear standards are crucial.
2. Diversity and Equity
We urge CC to examine how it can become more inclusive for both members and guests. In particular, the council should better recruit and support members from historically underrepresented groups, and subgroups should reflect the heterogeneity of the elected body. Additionally, CC must consider its biases in funding allocation. Last semester, controversy arose from councilmembers’ extended questioning of students seeking funding for Black Previews. Data compiled by the Record then revealed that, since 2016, CC more extensively questioned requests from Black students, majority-Black groups or programming events focused on Black students. (“CC pressed on racial bias in funding,” April 24, 2019). Consequently, the council should implement protocols to reduce this prejudiced discrepancy.
Frequent, accessible communication is an integral element of transparency and effective government. The CC site should be updated more frequently to reflect weekly developments and additional controversies and to more frequently hold public engagement events.
4. FinCom Reform
The Financial Committee (FinCom), is a subset of the council responsible for distributing funds to student groups. It is a particularly self-selecting and homogeneous group, and its anonymous members are chosen by the CC executive board. We believe that all FinCom meetings should be public and that members, both CC reps and external appointees, should be elected by the student body. FinCom should also publish a weekly spreadsheet that summarizes its discussions and ultimate funding allocations.
5. Acknowledging Mistakes and Revising Policy
CC should seek to grow from its opacity during the WIFI debate and recent biases in evaluating funding requests. More importantly, it should develop protocols to avoid similar problems in the future. We applaud CC for streamlining its bylaws and hope that this will make it more accessible to all students who request funding and address the council. As a group of three administrators and Vice President for Student Organizations Will Howie ’20 is now responsible for granting RSO status, we impel the College to name all members of that team. Lastly, CC should amend election policies to improve candidate and voter turnout and prevent electioneering. Recently, write-in candidates were elected with only a few votes, and the presidential election was nearly uncontested. Other positions were filled, inefficiently, by three students while some sat unfilled.
We believe that student government can be a positive, productive element of campus life and hope that CC can evolve with transparency to better serve the student body.
The editorial represents the opinion of the majority of the Record’s editorial board.