Goodbye College Council, hello Three Pillars; Moving towards a better student government

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Last October, the Executive Board of College Council (CC) published an opinion piece in the Record calling for a restructuring of student government at Williams. Since that article has been published, CC has spent a good deal of time examining our relationship with the student body and the Constitution. After multiple town halls, surveys, meetings, and resolutions, we felt we could not ignore the apparent truth. Over the past five years, CC has unfortunately lost the confidence, respect and trust needed from the student body to successfully lead campus. However, at the crux of the crisis, we authored another opinion piece that concluded with the following statement: “We look forward to the possibilities of student government at Williams we have yet to imagine.”

In November, CC passed a resolution creating the Task Force on Student Governance and charging its members with the responsibility of envisioning what a more equitable and effective student government might look like. The sixteen members of the Task Force have not only achieved this goal, but went above and beyond in designing a new government that boldly addresses the flaws that have plagued CC for years. Both of us are extremely confident in the Three Pillars Plan, as the structure focuses on strengthening transparency, efficiency, equality and democracy. At its core, the plan distills three aspects of the role of CC — money allocation, committee appointments, and student advocacy/activism — into separate bodies, each responsible for one “pillar” of student government. Thus, each branch of the plan will allow students to focus on their respective charges, without getting bogged down in the intricacies of navigating the other aspects of student government. The new structures exist to support the students in all their endeavors, rather than limit them with endless red tape and bureaucratic procedures only haphazardly followed and applied at whim. 

For this reason, we are extremely excited about each of the Three Pillars. Members of the funding body, Facilitators for Accessing Student Taxes (FAST), will be chosen through direct elections rather than CC appointments. FAST exists to provide students and organizations access to funds, not to reject budget proposals. The second body, The Advisory Board for Lobbying and Elections (TABLE), will work to appoint students to various committees that run the College. Currently, the Executive Board appoints these student members in a process that historically has been inefficient, non-representative and slow. The final Pillar creates a springboard for student organizing, an element that has unfortunately diminished in CC. The Williams Student Union will have the flexibility and resources to prioritize the concerns of marginalized voices on campus, and will serve as a stronger touch-point between students and the administration.

One of the most obvious differences between the current College Council and the Three Pillars Plan is the proposed removal of co-presidents, the very office we hold. Acting as co-presidents for this last semester and year has been both an honor and a privilege. However, we can attest firsthand to how convoluted CC has become. The position of president is one that has weighed heavily on our shoulders — not only because of a strong sense of disillusionment with the structure as it currently exists, but because of a desire for a student government that does more, that asks more of itself, and that gives more to the students it supposedly represents. The horizontal leadership structures at work in the Three Pillars Plan are truly uncharted waters, as no other peer institution uses such a model in their student government. However, as a college that fosters forward thinking and unique problem solving, we are confident that no other students in the country are better suited to lead the way forward than ours. 

We leave you with this: a simple request to take the time and effort to learn about the Three Pillars. This plan comes from hours of brainstorming, countless days spent drafting and redrafting, and hundreds of conversations with everyone from students up to President of the College Maud Mandel herself. It comes from the hard work of the members of the Task Force, and from the students who have for years suffered the injustices of our system, and from the individuals who decided they could no longer sit by and be content with a government that does the bare minimum. It comes from a place of imagining student government not as it is, but as it could be. And now, it must come from all of you. 

Thank you for allowing us the honor of being your co-presidents — we sincerely wish this student body nothing but the best. 

Ellie Sherman ’20 is a biology major from Rockville, Md. Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20 is a political economy major from San Francisco, Calif./Mexico City, Mexico. They currently serve as CC co-presidents.