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.
Hello, my name is Olivia Ensign and I want to represent you as the Vice President of Swarthmore Student Council. For those of you who like to skim there are three major themes included in my platform: more active student participation in decision making processes, greater dialogue, and more attention to student needs. I feel that the dedication I have for Swarthmore makes me an ideal candidate to implement changes in these three areas. First participation, as this year marked the beginning of the Strategic Planning Process intended to be completed in Spring 2012. The topics that appear as the headings of discussion around this issue are most likely the same things you talk about with your friends when critiquing your Swarthmore education: curriculum, teaching styles, diversity, recruitment and admission policies, financial aid polices, and most importantly what you’re actually going to take away from these four years. This being said it is vital that there exists a more dynamic student interest in the process. The presence of a handful of students on these committees is not enough to represent the huge diversity of views that are contained within our student body. These committees will be at the forefront of deciding which elements of Swarthmore change and which elements are kept and thus it is important that all students be encouraged to express their views. The online forum and the fireside chat provided for this purpose is a good start, but as is evident by the relatively few comments posted, the majority of students don’t seem to be engaging around this issue. As vice president I would continue to promote greater student involvement in this issue as it leaves the early stages of development. In addition, the position of vice president involves meeting with the Dean of Students and President on a fairly regular basis, which would provide me with the opportunity to pass on your comments and concerns on the planning process.
The second issue I want to address is the need for greater dialogue on our campus, not only between the student body and administration, but also among student groups. Swarthmore has a huge range of cultural, religious, and issue based groups that very much add to campus life. Many of these groups share the same goals and yet fail to engage in dialogue that could perhaps result in a greater sharing of resources. As a member of student council I hope to organize a forum open to all student groups on campus in order to facilitate discussion and allow groups to find points of unexpected intersectionality that could result in a greater ability to reach their goals. This would be particularly helpful for groups looking for a wider body of support for their initiatives. In addition, I see greater dialogue as also creating a space for more diversity of viewpoints.
I’d also like to talk about my view on the need for more student support. This year’s student counsel has already worked toward many issues that I intend to continue pressing forward such as a student resource guide for event planning and a system for laptop sharing. In addition as vice president I would also push for greater academic support for students that takes into account discrepancies in the resources and skills students may or may not have obtained from their high schools. Also, these past two years, there has been dialogue and organizing around a text book sharing initiative, which I would continue to work on, making information about the program much more accessible. Also given that over half of Swarthmore’s student body receives financial assistance I think it is vital that financial education be readily available to students, on topics such as grant opportunities, loan information, and strategic financial planning. As Vice-President I would also push for greater course and faculty diversity.
In addition to greater academic and financial support I will also push to implement changes that support the overall health and well being of Swarthmore students. For instance, I will continue to work on the initiative the current student council is working on to expand the meal point system to food options in the ville. I will also push for more diverse and healthier food options provided in Essie Mae’s. Finally, as Vice-President I’d also push for more Tri-Co wide events to create a bigger social scene.
I have participated in a number of campus groups in the past two years including SASS, SWOCC, SOCA, and SASA, which has shown me the process of working with the administration to achieve goals. In addition, I have participated in the tutoring and mentoring program Dare to Soar and last year was a Co-Coordinator of one of the sites. Also this past summer I participated in the Center for Progressive Leadership’s New Leaders Internship program, in the course of which I learned fund raising, grant writing, and event coordinating skills, all of which I can bring to the position of Vice President. I’m currently abroad, and gaining some space has made me realize how much I miss and love the Swarthmore community. It’s because of this that I want to take on a more active role and do all that I can as Vice President to meet the needs of the student body.