Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Hi guys! I’m Gabby Capone ‘14 and I am running to be your Co-President. I have some ideas for StuCo, like better cellular service on campus (Verizon is awful), late-night access to food and free SEPTA tokens. But I’m not running for Co-President to push my ideas. I’m running with the belief that the Co-Presidents and StuCo need to be addressing your ideas.
My platform describes how I think StuCo should solicit and evaluate student opinions and then how it should address them. StuCo is going to be more relevant and effective if it does what the students need and want it to do.
(Buzzword time.) I would like to maintain “transparency” and “foster open dialogues” so that we can actually get something done. It is a given that StuCo should be transparent and should facilitate frank discussions. But it has to act upon those discussions. StuCo did a good job of this earlier in the semester by hosting the Open Dialogue on Student Life with the Deans Office, following it up with a referendum, and then addressing concerns through the Dean’s Advisory Council. We are now on our way to re-defining the Party Permit policy. I would use this as a model to approach other campus-wide issues: a discussion, a quantitative assessment of opinion, and follow-up with the Dean’s Office, student groups and relevant committees. It is my hope that this approach will evolve into a series of Dialogues to address topics such as social life, academics, safety on campus and environmental sustainability. (I wouldn’t mind giving it a catchier name, though. Chit Chats for Change? Pow-wows for Progress? Tackling Troubles through Tête-à-têtes? We’ll work on that…) I think that there could be a few each semester and we could invite members of relevant committees and available faculty and staff. For example, for an Open Dialogue on sustainability we could invite students and faculty members from the Climate Action Planning Committee and the Sustainability Committee, our new Sustainability Coordinator, and perhaps staff from the Scott Arboretum. If we are going to address an issue then we need to have an understanding of why that issue continues to persist from people who know the most about it. Is something already being done? How can student efforts and collaboration with the administration improve the situation?
Referenda could dispel or solidify what is said in these dialogues. This does not mean that you will get bombarded with e-mails, but on a monthly basis StuCo could send out a single survey with a variety of current initiatives and use feedback to narrow its focus or change its approach to an issue. This form of input would supplement Open Dialogues, but is not meant to replace other methods of input, such as e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, or our new Small Steps board in Parrish.
But in order for all of this to work, we need to make sure that StuCo is, and is seen as, an effective body. The means for input are in place, but I think they are currently underutilized because people don’t see StuCo as effective. It is my goal to change that. I believe that if we push beyond discussions into actual action then we will be a relevant resource for the campus.
My understanding of the college’s 30+ committees, their missions and their compositions would be relevant to StuCo’s endeavors. Committees are a great source of up-to-date information on a lot of policies and undertakings (relating to housing, courses, orientation, athletics, staffing, just to name a few). StuCo was able to work with the Dean’s Advisory Council to move forward on the Thursday Night Policy. And last semester we provided our support for the Sustainability Committee’s endeavors. I think that when StuCo works like this, collaborating with committees or other bodies, that we are able to see the best results and can address student needs.
Not every problem that Swat faces can be solved by working through committees or through Open Discussions, but StuCo should be able to find an individual solution to a particular problem. It could partner up with student groups, talk to alumni to see what did or didn’t work at Swat in the past, or reach out to other colleges for examples of effective practices and policies.
Finally, here are 2 experiences which I think illustrate my proactiveness and willingness to put in the work to get things done (and done well)—2 qualities which I believe our Co-President should have.
As Appointments Chair I revamped the application to make it short and to the point and put it on GoogleDocs to make submission and review easier. I standardized committee terms so that vacancies come out on schedule and everyone is given the chance to apply (and worked with Chairs to make sure official term lengths were followed). I was accessible and responsive to the needs of applicants and chairs. I compiled an official list of all the students serving on the college’s committees (which we didn’t have before) and made a new, more naveagable website for the Appointments Committee. I made sure the Appointments Committee focused on appointing students who take into account wider student opinion and made committees as diverse as applicant pools allowed. These improvements will make the job easier for the person who comes after me, and will ensure that students are more at ease with the application process and consistently have the opportunity to be on committees.
My second experience demonstrates that I am always willing to put in the effort and time to make things happen. When I came to Swat and saw that we didn’t have a Model United Nations team I decided to start one. I reached out to groups and mutual friends to garner interest and spoke with alumni who had tried to start a team in previous years to see why it couldn’t get off the ground. This semester the team got chartered, received funding from the Student Budgeting Committee and the Dean’s Office, and this weekend our team of 18 is going to one of the biggest conferences on the Model UN circuit.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions, suggestions or thoughts please e-mail me (gcapone1).