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 Amelia Mitter-Burke and I would like to be your next Student Council President.
I am running for president as someone that wants to see StuCo continue growing in its relevance, accessibility, power, and effectiveness.
I see StuCo as a way of connecting and empowering students so that we can be involved in shaping the present and future of Swarthmore. I am interested in how students can have not only access to, but real involvement with, the administration. While I have ideas about ways to change Swarthmore, my primary interest in the job of president is not in my own agenda, but how it is an important role of coordinating and facilitating the work that students already do by making StuCo a more open and useful channel for student voices. I think exciting work is already happening in this regard, and I am energized to push it further.
I am a history/education special major in the class of 2012; I have been on the Student Budget Committee and working in Coalition for a Free Haiti, Swarthmore Labor Action Project, and White Students Confronting Racism; I am active in the Dance Department; I do work study as a garden assistant in the Arboretum; and I make a serious effort to be present at events on campus because I think that is how community is made here. From the Dean’s search sessions and budget cut talks to the lectures, talks, and shows hosted by students and staff, campus activity is integral to making the school what it is and I make an effort to be a part of it.
As a transfer into the class of 2012, I am particularly aware of how the energy and resources available for student involvement at Swarthmore are remarkable. As I have entered this community, I have come to see that student activity is one of the core pieces of the College. I also see the ways this activity can be un-necessarily complicated, challenging, or out of reach. The guiding idea of my role as president would be accessibility. This means a lot to me; it is both an ideal that can push the work of StuCo and our vision for Swat’s future, and a concrete plan for the daily life and workings of the College.
I want Swarthmore to be accessible to students already here. This semester my time on the Student Budget Committee has highlighted the ways in which students are expected to figure out the bureaucracy of the school on their own. Our programs should exist to meet students where they are and take their efforts further. From committees like SBC, to academic resources likes WAs, to deans and administrators, to existing student groups, to the funds for creating new projects, all the resources of Swarthmore are many angles to get at this core issue of access. Taking this year as an example, StuCo is already working towards this – with the responsive and useful enactment of the King of Prussia shuttle, and the more long-term creative development of the Bike Share Program, which I would see through completion. Examples of other current issues that I see at Swarthmore, and ways for me as president to coordinate work on them are: efforts to increase the diversity within academic support programs (connect the Educational Policy Representative with student groups to support academic program leaders as they work on their offerings), making funding processes more transparent (publishing more clear information about funding and supporting the Student Groups Advisor in educating group leaders), making sure students are involved in policy decisions that affect them, especially regarding food, housing, college services, hiring, and financial aid (continuing the efforts of students and administrators in the hard working together over issues like financial aid and budget cuts), and really focusing on the efficiency of StuCo so that it is capable of making new programs to respond to the daily lives of students (dining services policies, transportation, dorm locks) and figuring out ways to take in student perspectives and consider the complexity of initiatives like StuCo pay, which require thoughtful planning and real efforts to represent the student body. I am also very interested in how this semester StuCo has grouped some of its work into three areas – outreach, financial issues, and immediate response – and I would be interested in connecting these working areas to the broader student body and bringing in student groups already involved in these issues.
I also want Swarthmore to be accessible in a broader sense than the important day-to-day channels. I am interested in more long-term efforts to think about our financial aid policy, academic accessibility, faculty diversity, program offerings, admissions policies, and the culture and climate of our school. StuCo could be a huge resource for us, as students, to engage each other in the process of creating a school culture that we want, and school action that we need.
I also see next year as an important moment for StuCo as Liz Braun will begin her time as Dean of Students. Attending the dean search sessions this semester was an important experience for me in seeing how students can be involved in College decisions and envisioning different possibilities for the Dean of Students roles. The opportunity to establish a strong, active StuCo during Dean Braun’s first year is exciting to me. I would want StuCo to be a resource in establishing Dean Braun as our ally and making sure that all student voices are heard as she gets to know Swat. I would like to work with her to organize events in the beginning of the year so that she can get to know the full student landscape. This would include open events like StuCo cafÃ© with Dean Braun to establish comfortable working relationships, but also more specific meetings that could connect her to different areas of work on the campus. I would also see the role of president as integral to maintaining this accessibility beyond Dean Braun’s first months at the college by coordinating events, forums and ways for feedback throughout the year but also using this new start to establish an active channel for student feedback and involvement in shaping what her role and relationship to students will be.
I have been involved in multiple student activities here on campus, so not only do I feel prepared for the responsibility of StuCo president and to make a substantial time commitment outside of my classes, I have experience with different communities on campus and the different needs they have. I see substantial importance in committing to the coordination, facilitation, and active work of StuCo and next year I would make it my top priority.
Above all these ideas though, I see the role of president as supporting efforts to get started, coordinating them once they take off, and following them through to realization and this is the work that excites me.
Please contact me (amitter1) with feedback and questions – that process is how StuCo can grow to meet our needs.
Thank you for your time,