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.
To the Swarthmore College Community:
We would like to share a few words with you as the semester wraps up for the first half of the academic year.
It is hard to imagine that the Presidential and Executive Board elections happened in April 2015 as we are fast approaching 2016. More than half a year has passed since then, and the Student Government Organization (SGO) has been busy with several initiatives that we have found great success in. As part of our intention to be more transparent with the campus, we would like to highlight some of our contributions thus far.
Beginning with the ratification of the Constitution last spring, our campus has shifted from the previous Student Council structure to the newly adopted Student Government Organization (SGO) framework. We are proud to share that this fall has been our first official semester under a ratified SGO constitution.
Before the semester began, we assembled the new website (sgo.swarthmore.edu) to institutionalize our organization and to give students access to information about several important processes. Within the website, we created pages that provided instruction about the chartering process, budget guide, and event planning. We needed to update the information about these processes because SGO revamped the structure of some of these procedures. As we compiled more material about standing committees, student committees, and college committees, we have seen that the website has been a critical and helpful addition to our communication with students throughout the semester.
As the SGO Executive Board gained momentum during the first few weeks of the fall semester, we approved a new Visual and Performing Arts Committee to provide support for the arts on campus. The result of this recent development changed the dynamics of the Executive Board, as we now have 8 elected Committee Chairs. The Executive Board members are in charge of their respective committees, including two to four Senate members per committee. In September, we held early elections, which added 19 new senators spanning across all years for the 2015 – 2016 academic year, who have responsibilities according to their specific committee.
It has been a very busy semester for the SGO Executive Board and Senate. We encourage students to attend weekly Executive Board meetings or the full SGO meetings, especially for those who are curious about the topics and initiatives that we undertake during the semester. For our full SGO meetings during the fall semester, Dean Braun and her guests joined us for three meetings this semester to talk about the new dining services committee, progress on implementing the one-card system across campus, and the Campus Climate Study. Inviting administration to SGO meetings has been a productive way for us to connect with them.
As we look forward to a productive spring semester next year, we would like to thank students who have been involved in SGO through events and the organization, itself. We would like to thank Dean Braun and her guests for enlightening us with exciting developments for the College. Last, we would like to embrace and thank President Valerie Smith for allowing us to welcome her during her inauguration, “Changing Lives, Changing the World.”
Christine Kim ‘17 and Steve Sekula ‘17
Academic Affairs Committee
Bobby Zipp ‘18
David Pipkin ‘18, Ben Roebuck ‘17
This year, the Academic Affairs Committee is focusing on providing greater access to opportunities for Swatties, both on campus and in the world at large. Most recently, we conducted a survey on Swatties’ experiences with unpaid internships, and the raffle of the survey respondents made Mahnoor Malik ’16 the recipient of a $50 gift card to the college bookstore! We have also been working closely with the Dean’s Office to further integrate Student Academic Mentors into the Sophomore Planning process, and with Honors Program Coordinator Craig Williamson on some exciting Honors Program awareness events for the upcoming spring semester. And wouldn’t everyone like to take their professors out for coffee free of charge every once in awhile? We’re working on that too. Stay tuned.
While all those other things are going on, the Committee Chair Bobby Zipp ’18 has been regularly attending the meetings of the college Curriculum Committee and Council on Education Policy, discussing both short-term and long-term educational policy initiatives of the college.
Blake Oetting ‘18
Jason Fu ‘18, Nhung Hoang ‘19, Nancy Yuan ‘19
On the Appointments committee, we have coordinated two rounds of appointments onto the myriad college and student committees on campus. In September, we had an emergency round of interviews aimed at filling committee vacancies for this semester. Additionally, we just concluded interviews for our normal round of fall appointments, which appoints students for the spring semester. The four of us have been working very hard evaluating applications, conducting interviews and deliberating about whom we think would best fulfill the duties of these important student positions. All Swarthmore students are, as we know, hard working and extensively qualified people, making decisions regarding who gets what quite difficult, but we think we have managed to place the most appropriate candidates in the right positions to increase student participation on campus and ensure student voices are heard as Swarthmore continues to progress as an institution.
Mosea Esaias ‘17
Alex Jimenez ’16, Amal Sagal ’19
The Diversity Committee was created to address the ongoing needs of diversity and inclusion in the Student Government Organization and within the Swarthmore community in general. Thus, central to the mission of the Diversity Committee is the production of climate change both within Student Government and throughout other aspects of campus and institutional life. The principal goal of the Diversity Committee is to create and sustain an open and inclusive campus environment. This is done, in part, by: (1) pursuing student initiatives to attract, retain and graduate a diverse and inclusive student body, (2) pursuing student initiatives to attract and retain a diverse faculty, staff and administration and (3) communicating Swarthmore’s commitment to diversity through the Student Government Organization. This year we have been working on constitutional amendments to strengthen the Diversity Committee and to make Student Government more inclusive and accountable. We have also been working on polishing the Bias Response Policy, which was passed last year.
Environmental Impact Committee
Bennett Parrish ‘18
Ross Bednar ‘18, Nathaniel Graf ‘16, Tiffany Yu ‘18
The Environmental Impact Committee is working on several sustainability initiatives involving Swarthmore College and the surrounding community. We are in the process of implementing multiple Sustainability Charrette proposals from last February in conjunction with Melissa Tier and the Office of Sustainability to support the “Resilience” component of Swarthmore’s Climate Leadership Commitment. Committee members are going out into the borough and the City of Chester and conducting research on community attitudes and involvement in environmental awareness and sustainability. Additionally, we are mapping out existing local sustainability infrastructure and setting clear goals for the future. Our project will culminate with a community event centered around our findings. We hope our research will give the college and greater community the tools to progress towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future.
Student Budget Committee
Varun Prasad ‘16
Swarthmore’s Student Budget Committee is one of the most established student run committees on campus that deals directly with student life. We are primarily responsible for distributing the $550,000 Student’s Activities Budget amongst Swarthmore’s chartered student groups. This fall, in partnership with SGO, SBC began working on modifications to the student group chartering process that would ensure that groups eligible for long term funding from SBC would have a robust leadership structure in place to ensure continuity and longevity. Apart from that, SBC continued with its regular practice of distributing supplementary funds to student groups, having already approved budgets for 2015-16 in Spring 2015. Meeting summaries are available on the Daily Gazette’s website.
However, SBC’s activity is more concentrated towards the Spring Semester in the lead up to spring budgeting. Some primary goals for Spring Budgeting include increasing outreach to minimize the number of groups that are unable to secure budgets for the next year at the end of the spring semester and codifying precedent to ensure that our decisions are consistent across committee leadership transitions. We also hope to make the budgeting process less opaque for groups by ensuring that they have met with their assigned SBC mentor well in advance of Spring Budgeting, so as to clarify any procedural questions before signing up for Spring Budgeting slots. We will see a significant leadership transition over next semester and a primary goal is to ensure that the new leadership is well positioned to assume responsibility at the beginning of next year.
Student Life Committee
Kimberly Rosa ‘18
Shivani Chinnappan ’18, Gilbert Orbea ’19, Won Chung ‘18
This semester, the Student Life Committee was able to host three study breaks and one raffle. At our first study break, students enjoyed a smoothie from Smoothie King as well as fresh fruit. Students could pick from a wide range of options including strawberries, grapes, apricots, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and kiwis. Our following study break titled “Play-Donuts” consisted of hot fresh donuts from Federal Donuts and free Play-Doh for students to destress with during midterms. Our third study break occurred right before Thanksgiving break and it consisted of turkey themed cupcakes. We also raffled 20 Septa passes and Eastern State Penitentiary tickets so students could get off campus for the Halloween weekend. We plan to conclude our semester with one final study break during reading period. For the upcoming semester, we hope to receive feedback from students on how to improve students’ well-being.
Student Organizations Committee
Kara Bledsoe ‘16
Margaret Cohen ‘19, Cole Graham ‘17, Won Chung ‘18
The Student Organizations Committee (SOC) is specifically concerned with the needs of student run groups on campus. We facilitate the chartering process that grants student groups institutional privileges and advocate for the initiatives brought to us by student group leaders and other members of the student body. Our aim is to ensure that all student groups have the means to be successful and sustainable, and we welcome the participation of student groups in our conversations by holding weekly open meetings. The majority of our work centers around the granting of charters to new student groups and will soon involve the maintenance of an updated list of all active student groups on campus. Recently inaugurated initiatives include the revamping of Parrish’s display boards and the push for club sports’ rights within the athletic department of the College. If you would like to get in contact with us, send an email to email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Student Outreach Committee
Ellen Liu ‘18
Tessa Chambers ‘19, Elizabeth Kolln ‘16
The Student Outreach Committee has been working to improve transparency between students, administration, and SGO itself. To do so, we have begun to plan several different projects, all with specific goals in mind. A preliminary student survey was created in order to see if and how SGO has been making an impact in student’s lives this year. The data from this survey will be used to craft a larger, more comprehensive survey which will be sent out following winter break.This survey will be conducted in an attempt to better serve our campus in the spring by collecting opinions from students about individual SGO committees and certain initiatives that have been implemented this past semester.
In addition, we have been trying to increase SGO activity on social media via our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Next year, we plan on launching an initiative across all our social media platforms to better the relationship between the administration and the students. This will include, but will not be limited to, a periodical spotlight on members of the administration to be featured and written about.
Visual and Performing Arts Committee
Li Tian ‘18
Alejandro Hernandez ‘18, Steve Sekula ‘17
The brand-new Visual and Performing Arts Committee oversees arts-related events and groups around campus and aims to create a space where students can voice their ideas and opinions about the arts.
This semester, we focused on developing relationships between three main groups: the Kitao and List Galleries, and Olde Club to engage more students in the arts. With Kitao, we developed Kitao Coffeehouse, a combination of open mic, live music performance and crafts making, that provided a lively space on Friday nights. With Olde Club, we brainstormed preliminary event ideas to attract general student body and helped simplify the process of accessing Sound Machine for student bands. With List Gallery, we took charge of the publicity of current and future exhibitions and processed requests from students for gallery space.
In the future, in addition to keeping the collaborative relationships with all arts-related groups, the Visual and Performing Arts Committee will be an active voice in the Art Acquisition Committee, which will help manage and maintain the college’s permanent art collection. Please feel free to talk to Li, Steve or Alejandro about your visions of arts on campus! We are always open to conversations with students with passion and put ideas into action.