StuCo Forum on Transparency

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.

Student Council held a student forum on Sunday afternoon to focus on issues that Student Council can fix internally, primarily ways to make it more transparent and accessible. The forum was intended primarily to reach out to IC/BCC communities, but as Financial Policy Representative Sarah Roberts ’08 pointed out, “a lot of the ideas here are good for all of campus.”

Attendance was relatively poor–at some points there were fewer students in attendance than Student Council members–but many new ideas were put forth.

The three main issues discussed were:

1. Appointments
Appointments Chair Sven Udekwu ’09 (dudekwu1)

* Committees tend to be more open to people who already have friends on committees and Student Council. How can Council tell people what it is that they’re applying for and what sort of experience they should have? Council plans to revise the application and the interview process so that people will know better what to expect; for example, telling people what kind of questions might be asked at their interview.

* Student Council promises to publicize the list of who is on which committees, so if you want to apply to a certain a committee, you know who to contact about that committee.

* Freshmen often get discouraged by the appointments process. Udekwu says that “we want to have a mix of people on committees… you have to get younger people in to foster seeds,” so freshmen certainly do get appointed. That said, freshmen don’t necessarily know which committees are good starter committees (for example, apply for Movie Committee before applying for SBC) or that applying multiple times will get you a spot. Student Council hopes to make this kind of advice more accessible in the future.

2. Clarity in Student Council elections
Campus Life Representatives, Randall Johnston ’09 (rjohnst1) and Alyssa Work ’08 (awork1)

* In a continuing theme, “it’s easier to run when you have a friend already on Student Council” but Council recognizes the need to encourage everyone to run. They have considered having a meet-and-greet with current StuCo members before elections so that people considering running can ask about what their positions would entail. They also want to bring this to various spaces on campus such as the Intercultural Center and the middle of Sharples.

* Council has begun discussing the possibility of offering work-study assistance for students who serve on Council. When you’re spending twenty hours a week on Student Council, you can’t necessarily hold down a campus job as well–offering the possibility of work study would make Council more open to students on financial aid.

3. Funding
Student Groups Advisor Paul Apollo ’09, (papollo1)

* A lack of clear information is the primary problem–Student Council passed out helpful flowcharts showing who to contact for funding depending on what your event is.

* People planning week-long or month-long series of events have to face special hurdles. Should they have to run around to all of the funding sources for each event or submit one large combined proposal?

* If you don’t like the decision of a funding committee, you can appeal to find out why you didn’t get the funding and to try and get it again. Council admits that “the appeals process was opaque and under-advertised last year” and that it needs to be more publicized.

* When asked about whether SBC could publicize their budget and their weekly allocations of funds, Apollo explained that that information is available at SBC during their open hours. They want to keep the information within SBC open hours because people often need context to understand past decisions. SBC minutes are also available on the SBC website.

Questions? Student Council will be tabling at the top of Sharples every Sunday dinner, and are also considering having formal conversations like this one more often. Another idea coming from the forum: Council could send representatives out to different group meetings, so instead of you having to come to a Student Council meeting, Council will come to your meeting, whether that be ENLACE or Earthlust.

Did the forum do its job? Andrea Pien ’08, the IC intern for SAO, attended the forum and reflected, “I wish more people had come, but that’s always how it is… I think StuCo’s doing a good job making people see that they care and showing that they understand that it’s their responsibility to be transparent and to let us know what’s going on.”

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