It is not easy to find issues on which 90 percent of Swatties agree. One would imagine that on such issues there would be a clear, obvious answer, something so evident that any outside observer could effortlessly predict the opinion of the student body. And yet, somehow, our administrators were shocked when 632 students out of a surveyed 702 expressed disagreement with the drastic change in the graduation schedule and the reasoning behind it. I’ve yet to hear a compelling reason why faculty cannot conduct research during senior week.
If one wanted to know about the drinking habits at Swarthmore, it would not be difficult to find students willing to discuss their experiences and those of their classmates. There are the RAs, SWATeam, DARTeam — all sorts of students with extensive experience with the nightlife at Swarthmore. Yet, somehow, Dean Rodriguez believes that the level of funnel usage is so epidemic that it deserves a condescending mention in the announcement of the new alcohol policies. Has anyone actually seen a funnel on campus?
The common denominator among these problems is that policy decisions are being made by people who are not in touch with the lived experiences of Swarthmore students. I understand that the administrators are real, generally good people. I understand that they have different priorities and obligations than the students and I certainly understand the importance of limiting legal liability. However, we have constructed a system where student voices are systematically ignored. Student input in high-level decisions is limited to confidential committees, so when proposals like early graduation are being considered, the members of these committees cannot notify the broader student body before the decision is made. Then, the announcement is carefully timed to limit student engagement — in this case, the day after move-out for underclassmen. Surely, this decision was not made during the finals period: its announcement was intentionally delayed until everyone affected had left campus. That’s even better than a Friday afternoon press conference before a long weekend.
We will keep seeing this type of out-of-touch decision-making until students are more deeply engaged in these processes at Swarthmore and not relegated to token, outvoted seats on various committees. The first steps to change should be to increase the proportion of student representatives on committees, to remove the confidentiality rules and the publish public minutes of committee meetings. Students are the integral part of any college and should be more than passive recipients of administrative directives from Parrish.
Joe Hagedorn is a senior at the college.