SGO Report, 2/28: Parrish Board Removals Questioned, Strategy on Social Justice Requirement

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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.

Last Sunday, the Student Government Organization (SGO) held an Executive Board Meeting in Parrish Parlors at 7:02 p.m. At the meeting, each committee chair gave updates on their committee’s project progress. Additionally, Benjamin Marks ‘16 attended the meeting to offer his opinion on the recent Parrish Board change.

Discussion of Recent Parrish Board Change

“What is the process of getting board space in Parrish?” Marks asked.

Marks’ question addressed the recent guideline changes for student organizations who want board space in Parrish. More specifically, Marks was concerned about the slow progress in revamping the boards.

“As a resident in Parrish who walks by these halls often, I noticed that most of these boards were taken down a few weeks ago, but not much has been done to get information to go back up. It’s just frustrating to me that the boards were taken down before there was a concrete process about how to replace it. Why are we taking the boards down now without a plan about renewing them? Especially with this being the time of year where people are visiting and the boards are looking worse than before,” Marks said.

Chair of Student Organizations Kara Bledsoe ‘16 said that her committee has an established process for rebuilding the Parrish boards.

“If you want a board, you can send an email to my committee. If you want a specific place, you can come to an office hour meeting, you can make argument as for why you want a specific space. And we’ll take a vote on whether or to give that to you,” Bledsoe said.

Regarding the timeline and the delay in rebuilding the boards, Bledsoe said, “while it does look like student groups don’t exist anymore, and this admissions tool isn’t there anymore, within the next few weeks, they will be back up.”

One point of contention for Bledsoe and Marks was the way SGO communicated the Parrish board changes to the student body. On November 16, 2015, Bledsoe sent out the first email, including the new compliance guidelines. The email included a tentative timeline regarding when boards would be taken down, and when the new board distribution would be announced. The timeline listed January 23, 2016 as the board removal date, and February 3 for when board space decisions would be released. The board space decisions announcement is delayed because Bledsoe’s committee decided to postpone the board take-down date by nearly a month, to February 14. SGO sent out the two other reminder emails nearly three months after the initial email, one on February 9 and the other on February 10,

Marks said he thinks there was a more efficient way to administer the Parrish board change.

“If you send me an email about something happening three months from now, I’m probably not going to respond, and I’d expect a reminder email. I feel like there’s a happy medium between sending an email three months from when it’s going to happen, versus sending out an email 24 hours before,” Marks said.

Bledsoe responded that some student groups did act on the emails, and that those who didn’t were unjustified in complaining now.

“There have been groups who have communicated with me within these three months, and it gave me the signal that it was on multiple groups’ minds. People don’t usually read the emails. If this is something that’s important to you and your student group, this should have been on your radar. I have very little sympathy for student groups who didn’t do anything about their boards taken down, especially since the deadline was pushed back a second time,” she said.

Additionally, Marks pointed out that the guidelines were not readily available in each of the emails, making the board renewal process unnecessarily difficult for student groups. As examples, Marks suggested that the guidelines should have been linked to or included in the emails to make them as accessible as possible.

The new board guidelines were only included in the first email sendout. However, in the latter two emails sent three months later, Bledsoe invited students who had no longer had access to the guidelines to email her committee.

“My committee and I put in a lot of work putting together the guidelines, and I feel like since they already have the information, it should be easy for them to find that information even though it was sent three months back. Part of it is making sure people are committed to updating their board space. We had some people who asked for the new guidelines. If this is something important to them, they will find a way to make it happen,” Bledsoe said.

As a final response, Marks said, “That’s unnecessarily difficult. If I needed the guidelines, then I would have to actively email you and you would have to actively email me back. If there is something people need to refer to, then I think it should be made as easy as possible for people to find it. I think the fewer steps there are, there’s a better chance of it being done. The more accessible the information is, the easier it is for people to comply.”

SGO’s Role in Social Justice Requirement Initiative

The college recently held a discussion with the Intercultural Center (IC) leaders about establishing a social justice graduation requirement. Chair of Academic Affairs Bobby Zipp ‘18 suggested that SGO create a survey to gather the student body’s opinions on the initiative.

Chair of Diversity Salman Safir ‘16 cautioned the executive board that any actions occurring on behalf of the IC leadership should be well thought out. Otherwise, he warned, they might have unintended effects.

“We need to keep in mind that the key stakeholders stem from the IC, and that as we try to push the initiative forward, we are cognizant of the people who are most affected by it, and let it grow and progress organically,” Safir said.

Safir recognized that SGO operates with the best of intentions, but he suggested that SGO be in clear communication and work closely with the IC to avoid taking over the initiative.

Other News:

  • SGO sponsored Judy’s Ice Cream study break on Thursday, March 3.
  • SGO survey closed; 300 total responses received.

As a closing comment, co-president Steve Sekula ‘17 urged the committee chairs to “take time to reflect on all the good things you’ve done this semester, and keep doing more good things as we near the end.”

The meeting was adjourned at 7:48 P.M.

A copy of the meeting’s minutes can be found here:

Min Zhong

Min covers news regarding the Swarthmore Government Organization for The Daily Gazette. Min is interested in finance and anthropology, and any other topics that seek to understand how and why human beings make the choices they do. At Swarthmore, Min is involved in Swat Tank, and an investment club. Min only eats gala apples, shares a birthday date with John F. Kennedy, and is a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar from Arlington, VA. Min enjoys reading in her free time, and prefers savory over sweet.

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