At the beginning of this semester, the members of College Council’s Executive Board sat down to think about what we wanted this year to look like. One answer kept coming up: not like last year. During the fall 2018 and spring 2019 terms, CC failed to effectively and appropriately address multiple student needs and conflicts. The result was a series of controversies that hurt the wellbeing of our members, students and other community members. We acknowledge that inconsistent and confusing bureaucratic systems, hostile environments and a disconnect between the priorities of CC and the rest of the student body have exacerbated the negative sentiments held against Council, as reflected by the mediocre participation rates in our elections, the difficulty CC has in making sure enough students run for (and stay in) its positions and our incredibly low popularity rates year after year in the surveys done by the Record. At the same time, these problems are not something new. They come up each semester, regardless of who is serving on Council. The issue couldn’t be clearer: CC’s troubles are larger than any one person. They are rooted in its own rules and structure.
It would be naïve for us to think that we can go about this semester hoping no controversies come up, that perhaps no divisive funding conflict or blunders in our bylaws will arise. Knowing how improbable that scenario is, we intend to undergo an internal review process this semester that frankly asks: What is the purpose and relevance of College Council? Are we solely a funding source for students, or do the conditions the campus face ask us to be something more? And most importantly, how can we engage and inspire the student body again in the promise and workings of a student government?
We, a small group within CC, may not know the answers to all these questions but what we do know is that the future of student government at Williams will be conceived by its students. That is why we propose a campus-wide dialogue to accompany this internal review process. The most obvious way to get involved in this conversation would be to join CC, but Council recognizes how difficult it is to invest the time and labor these positions require when being a Williams student is already a sufficiently exhausting challenge.
Hence, we plan to open up as many avenues of communication so you can tell us what you want CC to do differently in its operations, and even if you don’t want CC to continue existing. The first is through an electronic survey (you can find the link at the end of this piece); the second will have CC leadership reaching out to members of multiple student clubs that have historically been marginalized by our processes; and lastly we invite every member of the Williams community to a town hall and share with us what you think will move College Council in a better direction. The tentative date for this event will be the evening of Oct. 18, and more details on exact time and location will be announced as we approach that point in time. We look forward to the possibilities of student government at Williams we have yet to imagine.