Financial Policy Representative: Ben Hattem ’12

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.

I’m Ben Hattem and I want to be your next Financial Policy Representative. In my role on Student Council, I want to help foster trust between students and administrators about financial policy decisions. Doing so would encourage the administration to more directly involve students in financial decisions made by the college and ensure that students are heard while decisions are being made and not just after the fact. This is the only way we can really exercise our influence over the way our college is run.

Getting students involved in the financial work of the college requires two things: spreading information about upcoming financial actions and soliciting student input about where and how we can most effectively spend our budget. More public forums and discussions about these issues would help spread that information – in addition, I will regularly publish in campus publications about my committee meetings and conversations with administrators. These articles will have the added benefit of giving the student body a place to respond directly to me, and I will be diligent about following up on these ideas and concerns. That way, anyone with a suggestion will get direct feedback about how their idea is progressing.

I would bring significant prior experience with college finances to Student Council. After my somewhat peripheral involvement in the budgeting process last semester, I’ve taken on a much more active role in financial issues this spring. In opening dialogue about the AlliedBarton hiring decision, I had to familiarize myself with Swarthmore’s Living Wage policy and the surrounding monetary issues, and my service on the Committee for Purchaser Responsibility has furthered my understanding of how budgetary and spending decisions are made. In addition, serving on SBC has given me fairly thorough knowledge of student budgeting issues, which, while not directly equivalent to college budgeting processes, are certainly applicable to them.

I want to especially focus on ensuring that Swarthmore upholds its commitment to spending its money responsibly. We have to remember that Swarthmore is both an academic institution and a billion dollar business – as a result, ethical concerns too often fall apart in the face of economic pragmatism or budget neutrality. Saving money should never supersede our adherence to social justice and environmental responsibility. To fulfill our ideals, we have to be willing to pay for them. I would be interested in establishing an explicit responsible investing policy to help protect our social values in the recession economy. In developing such a policy, I would be able to make sure that student voices were heard and could be translated into a document with lasting effect.

One final point, though. Any show of effective student power, especially when it comes to financial decisions made by Swarthmore, requires more than Student Council initiative. To have any force, or even to claim to represent student interests, any such push has to have student support behind it. Right now, there is a gap of trust between students and StuCo, as demonstrated by the reactions to the recent StuCo-pay proposal. I want to ease that divide so that students can feel more directly represented by and in league with Student Council. But with that comes responsibility for the student body as well. Only if students work with their representatives can any meaningful change be created out of student concerns – it would require effort and input from you and me both. So I ask you to vote for me for Financial Policy Representative. Exercising student control over college finances is a tough challenge – let’s take it on together.

The Phoenix

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