Student Council offers students a place to ‘vent’

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.

Tuesday evening Student Council hosted “Vent for Change,” an informal and confidential discussion for students to air out their grievances regarding the process of event hosting, with Campus Life Representatives Randall Johnston ’09 and Brian Chen ’07 moderating. Topics mentioned included funding, rules of proposing events, and the various departments on campus dedicated to student life and social activities, such as the Deans’ office, SBC, and SAC.

The discussion was the brainchild of Chen and former Campus Life Representative Etan Cohen ’07, who felt that such an opportunity would help in gaining feedback for improving the event-hosting process for students. The main impetus behind holding this discussion “wasn’t one particular incident,” says Chen, “as seniors, we hear a lot of problems that people come across and about the people who can be difficult to work with. [The idea] came from a general sense of what was needed.”

By having this “Vent for Change,” Johnston and Chen were hoping to get more information from students about where their major concerns lay, and then relay those concerns to the appropriate people. In addition, students may have found that their problems with organizing a campus event were not unique. For instance, a student in attendance found sympathizers while describing frustration over the lack of a central source of information, that is, one resource to consult to learn exactly how to go about proposing an event and getting funding for it. While a study break to go over this process has been held in the past, since not everyone who is interested in such study breaks are able to attend, the information was lost to them. It was mentioned that perhaps this is not an adequate means of communicating how to host an event, and that something written and available to all students, either as a hard copy or online, would be beneficial.

Lack of widespread and reliable information was a recurring theme in the discussion. A student thought that it was not so much that there are too many rules but rather that there were too many rules that not everyone knew about and as a result created problems. Examples given included how students who did not know the proper protocol of writing proposals were immediately rejected by SBC, and how students may or may not know exactly what source of funds is appropriate for what kind of event. Again, it was offered that these problems may be alleviated by having a central source of information.

Students offered several suggestions about how to make the whole process better for the student body, and admitted to the difficulties of implementing such changes. One idea was addressing the current SBC, its student managers, and its limited office hours: instead of students, what if a Swarthmore College employee ran SBC and could be in the office eight hours a day? Aside from the financial implications of such a position, this system would deny students the SBC jobs. Still, the replacement of students, who are usually busy and have little time to spare in reviewing proposals on an individual basis, with someone whose job it would be to assist students in such matters was appealing.

Chen and Johnston hope to use the knowledge of all of these issues and others in forming a survey that would be emailed out to students in the future to further identify and to address the obstacles found in hosting a campus event.

Students are welcome to send questions and feedback to Brian Chen (bchen2) and Randall Johnston (rjohnst1).

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