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.
The Daily Gazette has reprinted this platform in full without changes:
I am running for Co-President of SGO because I have a lot of faith in this place. Although I must admit, I haven’t always had as much faith in Swarthmore as I’m expressing to you today. Like more than 40% of Swarthmore students, in the past I have questioned whether or not Swarthmore is really the best place for me. (Campus Climate Assessment Project) But over time I have realized that while Swarthmore isn’t perfect, it is truly special and unique; and for those areas where Swarthmore as an institution or as a community falls short, it is possible to make improvements. Actually, that’s one of the things that makes Swarthmore so unique.
Our Student Government is a powerful vehicle to facilitate student involvement in decision making in this community. For example, there are few institutions in the country that would allow students such as ourselves to manage hundreds of thousands of dollars, as does our Student Budget Committee. And the numerous students that Student Government appoints to College and Search Committees work to include student voices in important decisions. But Student Government is not now what it could yet be. In order to increase enthusiasm, accountability and effectiveness amongst SGO members, and in order for SGO to be more inclusive and representative of the student body, we need to adopt a system of “checks and balances”. Here’s what I mean:
- We need to strengthen the Student Senate. The Student Senate has a lot of potential but it is currently very weak. Members of the Student Senate have very little power and provide no oversight over the Executive Board which is essentially all powerful. Here’s how we fix it:
- We should establish a President of the Senate, who is elected from among their fellow student senators. They would be in charge of setting the agenda for the senate, organizing and convening the senate, and representing the senate to the cabinet.
- We should empower the Student Senate to approve by vote all appointments to chair student committees such as the Student Budget Committee, as well as all other major appointments such as appointments to fill vacancies on the Executive Board.
- We should empower the Student Senate to pass resolutions.
- We need to develop a better system for electing representatives from the BCC and IC communities to the Student Senate.
Beginning with these steps we can initiate a true balance between the Executive Board and the Student Senate, which would make Student Government as a whole more fair and more representative for everybody.
I have been involved in Student Government since my freshman year at Swarthmore. Most recently I served as a member of the Student Budget Committee and as Chair of Diversity. As Chair of Diversity in particular we accomplished a lot:
- We passed the first Student Government Bias Response Policy in the country.
This policy allows Student Government to have a consistent and timely mechanism to respond when incidents of bias occur on campus and to provide opportunities for the community to heal and grow. This policy is so significant because it fundamentally shifted the identity of Student Government. SGO is not just an organization that plans events and budgets money, we speak up in times of hurt and help to build peace.
- Then after passing our own Bias Response Policy, we assisted Swarthmore College as an institution in doing the same.
- And finally, we met with cultural group and interfaith leaders so that their voices could be heard in Student Government. A strong example of this is the large “stakeholders meeting” where we invited members of the community to learn about what Student Government has been working on and to offer suggestions and feedback.
As Co-President I will continue this work and more. I will work with committee Chairs to establish clear and consistent mission statements and goals for their committees. I will conduct periodic individual checkins with committee Chairs to make sure that they are reaching their goals. I will work with the Chair of Diversity to convene regular dialogues between the IC, BCC and Interfaith communities and SGO. And I will make sure that SGO is continually available to the student body.
As a vehicle of change, SGO can help Swarthmore to more fully become the community that we want it to be. And I want to help drive this vehicle as Co-President, as I have in the past as Chair of Diversity. I know that Swarthmore is not perfect. But we can make improvements one step at a time.
Mosea Esaias ‘17
P.S. If you have any questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org