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 Dawei (David) Ding ’16, and I am running for Student Groups Advisor. At this point, we have seen that Swarthmore has weathered through some rather tumultuous events. Last spring, because of various cases, the campus atmosphere had grown so uncomfortable that I felt quite uneasy. I felt that Swarthmore had changed in such a way that it was no longer the Swarthmore I knew and loved, and I experienced severe distress and sorrow for the woes of the students which was caused – I believe – by the continued lack of communication. It was not the four year journey I signed up for. Swarthmore should be a place where we came to grow both as academic students and as responsible human beings, and I want our college to continue to be such a place.
Things cannot stand the way they are. I believe Swarthmore should be a place where everyone can flourish, not a holding pool we go to for another four years. If some existing attitudes and structures don’t change, I think it will be difficult for Swarthmore to achieve its goals to its students.
Thus, I want to REBUILD TRUST AND UNDERSTANDING at Swarthmore through a few simple goals:
1. Improve communication amongst all groups and individuals
2. Develop a system to help students navigate the college and improve administrative visibility*
3. Foster the social accessibility of students and staff to improve alertness and readiness when situations arise.
(*By “administrative visibility” I mean students knowing the general intentions of the administration. We want to know everything, but they just can’t disclose it. I want to try to see where a happy median is.)
We must tackle the problems as a campus of students, faculty, and staff if we want to see Swarthmore become a better place. If students are to take the initiative, we need to create a system so the college both listens and responds accordingly.
To achieve these goals, I am currently in the process of formulating a Liaison Program to remedy the problems we have encountered in the past. I am currently talking to multiple Deans, student leaders, and staff to obtain information to try to see how to set up the Liaison Program to achieve the goals I listed. I realize that it is a work in progress, and I will not make any promises to you because I can only give you my time and effort to make Swarthmore a better place.
Swarthmore has been good to me; give me a chance to make Swarthmore a better place for you!
David Ding ‘16
Past leadership roles and experiences: Founder/President of Interact Club, City of Oklahoma City Youth Council, YLX leadership Class XV, Boys State 2011, RYLA 2010
Past and concurrent activities at Swarthmore: Academic Assessment Committee, Fencing, Change to Charity, Rotaract Secretary (Fall ’12), Tri- Co 2012,
Hi David. I’m concerned about the way you’ve framed the events of last spring. Are you unhappy with the underlying causes of the discussions or with the way in which the discussions were carried out?
It seems to me the latter. But when criticizing the manner of the discussion, I think it’s important to acknowledge the validity of the issues people brought up.
From this platform, it seems as if you’d prefer it if people just stopped talking about marginalization. You focus more on making things SEEM fine and polite than with fixing the underlying issues. Can I ask you to clarify your stance?
Can I ask you to stop talking?
The best way I can answer your concerns is to address them point-by-point and give you my ideas about the bigger matter.
1) “Are you unhappy with the underlying causes of the discussions or with the way in which the discussions were carried out?”
No, I am not unhappy in anyway. All the points that were brought up were extremely valid, and this is why I’m deeply concerned why they didn’t seem to be resolved before the protest in April.
I think a series of issues with infrastructure and communications may have contributed to the serious events last semester, primarily the Board of Managers’ meeting, and I am doing careful research to understand the infrastructure to understand the problem so that I can have the data to improve the system.
In no way am I stating that protesting is a problem or issue, and I’m in no position and have no desire to blame anyone. However, it is to my experience and understanding that the way people were shouted down during the meeting is definitely not conductive to building our community at Swarthmore, and I’m committed to finding a better way to communicate frustration and concerns in a more positive way.
2) “From this platform, it seems as if you’d prefer it if people just stopped talking about marginalization. You focus more on making things SEEM fine and polite than with fixing the underlying issues. Can I ask you to clarify your stance?”
Yes, I will clarify my stance: I want to get to the root of the problem and find a way for everyone to ‘win’. I have an inclination to believe that improving the college’s infrastructure and communications system may help, and I am committed to try to find a way to stop marginalization.
I think making things seem alright is like covering a bullet wound with a Band-Aid. People should always talk about frustrations and concerns, but their issues should be heard and responded to accordingly. I will try to figure out how to reform the system to be more responsive to the needs and issues of both students and staff.
I tried to construct my platform so that people would not get the impression you have. If you would, please point out my mistakes so that I won’t make the same mistake again.
Thanks, David–you’ve addressed my concerns. Because you asked, I’ll answer your question as to how I got my initial impression. It rests mostly in one statement:
“I felt that Swarthmore had changed in such a way that it was no longer the Swarthmore I knew and loved.”
The problem is, the Swarthmore that we knew and loved was a hostile place for many of our classmates. From an initial reading of the statement, it seemed like you would like to go back to that same old Swarthmore. However, from your clarification, it’s clear that that’s not the case. Thanks for responding.