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 students of Swarthmore College. My name is Sarah Dwider and I am running for the position of Student Council Secretary.
Glancing over the Student Council Constitution (as I know you all probably do regularly), the role of Secretary may not seem like much. The duties outlined basically consist of taking attendance and maintaining a small “milk and cookies” budget. Let me first reassure you that I can handle both these tasks with almost guaranteed proficiency. I was elected line leader of my kindergarten class and my roll call skills haven’t left me.
Joking aside, while taking care of the details of Student Council proceedings is undoubtedly important, it is not my only reason for running for the position. Beyond dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of meeting minutes, I see the position of Student Council Secretary as a position of facilitation. At its best, I believe that Student Council has the unique ability to be a positive means of communicating student ideas and concerns to the administration and campus as a whole. Whether it’s a proposal for a new green initiative, concerns about budgeting or even a request for a new foosball table, Student Council is one of the only forums on campus where each of these can be given full attention.
However, before the process of bringing an idea through Student Council can even begin, students must be comfortable using the resources available to them in order to make discussions brought up at meetings as productive as possible. As Student Council Secretary, I will work to make Student Council members recognizable and openly available to the student body. I would like to organize more opportunities to meet with Student Council members in a more informal setting than Student Council meetings. Updated profiles on the Student Council website and board in Parrish outlining the duties and personal interests of Student Council members would also help to make sure students know who is representing them and in what capacity. Another goal of mine would be to put together an abridged version of the Constitution outlining proposal procedures as well as separate subcommittees which can be approached for more specific concerns.
For effective communication to occur I firmly believe that transparency has to be not a courtesy but an imperative. As Secretary, I will work to make sure that Student Council proceedings are as transparent as possible. This means informing students of any and all meeting times and communicating to the student body what occurs during these meetings by making use of the Student Council board and working with StuCo’s Outreach Coordinator as well as drumming up some more creative ideas for sharing Student Council agendas.
Additionally, as Secretary I will work to hold our administration to the same standard of transparency. I believe that it is the responsibility of the administration to fully inform student of decisions or documents which affect our campus. In the new year, I would like to see the administration go beyond simply posting important documents like the Clery Report on some obscure corner of the Swarthmore website to actively making them public and available to the student body so that students can be better informed about the place they call home for much of the year. With more openness and transparency, it is my hope that we, as a campus, will be better able to address longstanding issues at Swarthmore.
From turning around the ban on late Thursday nights to supporting Swarthmore’s living wage campaign, at lot of positive change has occurred on Swarthmore’s campus with the help of Student Council, and as Secretary I can promise you that I will work tirelessly to continue this trend.