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 know that many of you are very busy, and some of you may not find the time to read through the entirety of my platform. I have decided to provide a condensed version to start you off. Think of it as the Sparknotes version of my platform: as any professor will be quick to tell you, you will be better off reading through all of it. But, if you don’t have the time, just read through the first bulleted portion. If you would rather read through the whole thing straight through, skip the next four bulleted asterisks.
**My experience as SBC Manager has put me in touch with countless student groups and student services, from Olde Club to FFS, and from the Shuttle services to Rattech. I know the student budget like the back of my hand, and as a member of SFAP, I am up to date on the budget cuts students will face next year and how it will affect them.
**As Student Council President I will focus on minimizing the difficulties students face in communicating with the Council by making use of a number of easily accessible and interactive online resources, as well as making greater use of the Student Council Facebook page, and placing poster boards in accessible locations such as Kohlberg and Science Center Coffee Bars for students to quickly share their thoughts.
**I will aim to streamline funding for students and design a long-term policy for the use of SBC rollover funds, a task that I am quite suited for, given my experience with the SBC budget.
**I hope to work with the administration to clearly communicate our concerns, involve them in the same online outreach program as with students, and focus on making concrete long-term plans—instead of just being told to “ask again in a few years.” I will also discuss with them establishing a policy for informing students ahead of time of sensitive events around campus, and who to contact to express concerns.
As some of you are already well aware, this year I served my term as Manager for the Student Budget Committee. Working for the SBC has provided me with the wonderful opportunity of working with virtually all the students groups on campus, as well as a number of administrators. Next year, I hope you will grant me the opportunity to continue serving the community as Student Council President.
As the SBC Manager I have worked with representatives from over one hundred chartered groups, and have developed a good understanding of the activities and events they organize. Additionally, I am quite familiar with many of the student run services, having overseen the Student Council Van Rentals, the Shuttle Services, Rattech, and so on. I have worked with representatives of SAC, Olde Club, FFS, and Drama Board, to name a few. Needless to say, I am very familiar with the funding process, and can safely say that I know the student budget like the back of my hand. As a member of the ad hoc Student Financial Advisory Panel, I am up to date with the slew of budget cuts that we will face next year, and how they will affect student life and group activities. Additionally, in my role as SBC Manager, I have worked with Student Council on a handful of occasions.
I will only make one promise: that I will bring the same commitment and dedication to Student Council that I brought to the SBC. I would like to think that those of you who have worked with me already know that I go out of my way to make things as easy as possible for you. Whether during office hours, on the phone, or randomly at Sharples, I have always been willing to answer any questions students may have. Additionally, some of you may have noticed small changes that I have implemented over the course of my term: I created a Google Calendar and a Twitter account for the SBC to keep students updated and aware of student services and any unexpected changes. I conducted Spring Budgeting entirely electronically, saving time, money and paper as compared to previous years when everything was done in print. Overall, I have pushed to move resources online and readily available.
Of course, just because I will make only one promise does not mean that I have no other ideas for changes that I would like to start seeing.
I will start the year by providing students with easy and accessible means to help them set the Student Council agenda, and express their concerns or worries. I will create an online page that students (even those studying abroad) can easily access to (anonymously) jot down some thoughts, or see what is currently on the agenda. Similarly, I hope to have giant poster boards set up at accessible locations across campus, such as the Science Center Commons and Kohlberg Coffee Bar, where students can scribble their thoughts while waiting in line. The same can be done specifically for BCC/IC and LGBTQ groups and locations.
Additionally, the Student Council Facebook page, a great idea in itself, could be employed more actively, with members sharing their thoughts about meetings on notes, and involving other students, on campus or studying abroad, in the discussion online. Due to their busy schedules, many Swat students simply cannot make it to forums and other outreach events. While I am sure we will host a handful of these events as well, my focus will be on minimizing the difficulties students may face in contributing to Student Council by making use of easily accessible and interactive online resources.
In addition, I will streamline the funding process for students and minimize bureaucracy. For example, ideally students would only need to fill out one form, and send it along to one person, with more work being done behind the scenes. A standard application will also help committee members by allowing them to judge proposals more fairly, and directly communicate their concerns about proposals to students.
I also will work with students to implement a new, long-term policy to address the issue of the SBC budget surplus or rollover. Whether it will involve better use of rollover funds, or a plan on how to decrease the rollover overall, with budget cuts taking place across the board we simply cannot idly stand by as thousands of dollars go unused. Given my experience with the student budget, I would be in the perfect place to lead this initiative as Student Council President. Although I already have a few ideas detailing the use of rollover funds, I would of course make sure to have student opinions and ideas involved in the discussion.
Finally, I hope to reach out to the incoming class during orientation, as well as meet specifically with other groups who may face more difficulties acclimatizing to Swarthmore, such as international students. My intention is not only to help students become aware of the multitude of resources available to them right away, but also to involve them with Student Council from the very start.
I have written a good amount about my vision of involvement with students. How about the administration? I will discuss with the administration establishing concrete long-term plans for student concerns that may not be immediately addressed for financial or logistical reasons. I will find ways to work with the administration so that they do not just tell us to “ask again in a few years,” but instead to start working on our concerns today by developing detailed plans for tomorrow.
I also aim to discuss with them the possibility of developing a policy on informing students ahead of time regarding sensitive issues and events being organized on campus, so that students are aware of what is going on, and know whom to contact to express concerns. In short, I will aim to involve them in the same or similar online outreach programs that will go out to students, and encourage them to share their thoughts with us so that there is an open dialogue for all. This will allow everyone—students, Student Council, and administrators—to stay in the loop and express any concerns or thoughts.
I hope that my platform has given you a solid idea of the type of president that I will strive to be. As always, if anyone has any questions or concerns, please feel free to let me know.
Simon Nin Zhu ‘11