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.
My name is Rachel Bell and I want to be your next Student Council President. I know how to make StuCo relevant, responsive, representative, and, to give you another alliteration, pertinent and prevalent.
This past semester, you elected me to the position of Student Events Advisor on the current Student Council. I know how Council works, so will not waste your time climbing up the learning curve. Efficiency is key for handling student suggestions and working with the administration.
I realize that the constraints many Swatties face prevent them from actively engaging Student Council. Sure, we need to be more open, but that is not sufficient for a substantively good Student Council. I therefore seek to actively engage the student body: help me set the agenda. I will hold an open forum (with food!) at the beginning of each semester to find out what students want changed or maintained. I will audit the occasional meeting or practice for all student groups. I think Student Council needs to be more approachable, and I know it can be intimidating to contact the council, especially when you do not know any members. The relationship between Council and the students needs improvement. As part of a wider awareness campaign, I will always publish my personal contact information (rbell1, 214.783.6793), and will encourage students to talk to me in person. I can meet for coffee or lunch, or just for a brief chat, because I realize not everyone can attend forums and events, even if they are truly interested in the issue at hand. I believe (and hope!) I come off as friendly and approachable, and would like to utilize these traits to better acquaint Council with students. Do not feel bad about pestering me; I like it and am running for that very reason. After all, if elected, I will be hired to serve you. Students should demand nothing less than absolute dedication out of their President and I promise to provide that.
I do not think making a list of promises to improve day-to-day life is productive, for we all know what can make daily life at Swarthmore better. I doubt the other candidates and I differ on these issues. We do differ with regards to experience, and I know what Student Council can do. The interesting thing about Council that I learned this past semester is that the majority of its power is “soft,” so to speak, or indirect. Sending an email with a suggestion to Dining Services or to the Deans’ Office means a lot more when it comes from Council. The amount of change we can make is directly related to the amount of effort the Student Council President puts in. Again, I promise to fully dedicate myself to Student Council, and will not be an overstretched candidate. To make day-to-day improvements, I will hold agenda-setting forums at the beginning of the semester, table, poll students, accept emails, attend meetings and practices, encourage students to attend our open StuCo meetings, scout the Phoenix and the Gazette, and just listen to (or eavesdrop on) students’ common complaints. I like knowing all that is going on around campus.
I understand that inclusion issues and feelings of exclusion plague many student organizations. My solution is to include these groups in Council’s significant meetings with the real folks in charge, from the administration to the Board of Managers. The Board of Managers meets several times throughout the school year, and often gets the final say in many important college decisions. I will not only invite representatives of these groups to the more open luncheon, but will also ask these groups to prep me on their concerns before I sit in on the closed-door meetings.
Many students do not how to fully utilize the college’s resources, or where to go when trying to start a group or to find funding. I propose a more interactive online handbook of sorts, which will tell people “Where do you go if you need x, y, and z.” I think having an overall awareness-promoting campaign can help too, and I do not just mean printing a newsletter. For example, we all read the postings in the bathroom about what is new at McCabe, and I will do similar advertising for Council. This will both inform students of what Council is doing (making it relevant) but will also hopefully educate students on how they can maneuver within the bureaucracy. I would like to work with the Phoenix and the Daily Gazette on having an “Ask StuCo President” column, a “Dear Abby” program of sorts.
Another thing few students know about Student Council is that it works much better and is much more active when its members enjoy going to meetings. Dreading the Sunday meeting (7pm, Parrish Parlors – come!) does not generate active participation during the meeting. I think leadership style has a lot to do with this, and I have the right leadership style. I am efficient, bubbly, open-minded, and do not take myself too seriously.
This coming year is unique for two reasons. First, we will welcome a new president, Dr. Chopp. I will start from the ground running with Dr. Chopp, and truly introduce her to the students. I want to shape her daily routine at Swarthmore from the beginning, so that she is not some distant administrator. A new president is a very exciting opportunity for all of us. Second, the inevitable budget cuts will occur. I promise to maintain dialogue with the Deans and Suzanne Welsh about what cuts will be made, and will discourage them from cutting vital student programs and events. One thing I hope to increase (or maintain, at the very least) is the student employment level. I know that many students rely on finding work on campus and need that paycheck. I will make sure student jobs are not slashed without serious consideration, and will explore ways to increase student employment opportunities.
Students lose faith and interest in Student Council when they believe it is irrelevant and ineffective. Things should not be this way and I will make sure they are not. There is too much at stake and, quite frankly, too much money at our fingertips.
Thank you for your time and please vote for Rachel Bell ‘10.