SGO Debates Social Justice Requirement, and More

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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.

On Sunday, October 10, The Student Government Organization (SGO) met in Kohlberg at 7:35pm for an Executive Board meeting. Highlights from this meeting include a constitutional amendment for emergency appointments and a brief but contentious debate over the proposed Social Justice Requirement.

Debate over the Social Justice Requirement over its name and substance

SGO Chair of Academic Affairs, Corinne Candilis ‘17, opened up discussion regarding the Social Justice Requirement with the Executive Board. She began by recalling the discussion on the subject from a Council of Educational Policy (CEP) meeting held last week.

The CEP was divided on the requirement, according to Candilis. Some professors noted that Swarthmore already has an ideological bias and a reputation for activism and that a social justice requirement may further deter potential students from applying to the college.

Tiffany Yu ‘18, Chair of Environmental Affairs, concurred.“We don’t want a left campus; we want a balanced campus,” she said.

“Ideally we don’t need a social justice requirement. But the current education curriculum does not require students to know about these topics,” Co-President Mosea Esaias ‘17 said.

Esaias was initially interested in registering for the pilot class for the new Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) minor, but noticed that “every author in the syllabus is an old, dead white man.”

“You’re always biased but you choose the way you want to be biased,” Esaias said.

Other members of the SGO Executive Board raised the issue of imposing additional requirements on students and the existing opportunities that students already have to engage in social justice.

“I think there’s already a lot of activism going on this campus. I think people who want to educate themselves on social justice cases can already take initiative and join clubs. The people who don’t do that don’t care,” Chair of Diversity Chris Chan ‘17said.

Josie Hung ‘19, chair of visual and performing arts, raised concerns that a social justice requirement may “put pressure on faculty of color or other marginalized identities to educate people when they have so much on their plate.”

The specifics of such of a requirement are yet to be fleshed out. Some at the meeting believe that the name of the requirement should be changed. As an example,“Global Governance” was suggested to improve its marketability.

“I feel that the word social justice applies a lot to the liberal agenda,” Yu said.

Constitution amended and Chair of Internal Affairs post filled after only one eligible candidate applied

The SGO amended its constitution to enable for positions to be appointed in emergency situations with a unanimous vote. After this procedure, the board unanimously voted Won Chung ‘18 to the position of Chair of Internal Affairs after it was vacated by Nancy Yuan ‘19, who recently left the position to take a leave of absence. The Chair of Internal Affairs position only had one eligible person apply, according to Esaias, leading to the decision not to hold a college-wide election.

Further constitutional amendments were proposed, such as giving more power to the Senate. This may come in the form of having an elected speaker who would lead the Senate. Another idea proposed was to allow the Senate more powers in approving committee chair appointments.

“It’s important that the Senate acts as a check and balance on the Exec Board”, Co-President Ben Roebuck ‘17 said.

Other suggestions included redefining the relationship between SGO and SBC, and also having a twice-a-semester public report to increase transparency.

Environmental Leadership Conference, separate budget for athletics, and more:

  • Yu plans to host a conference with all leaders of environmental groups to see what goals can be achieved this semester
  • Jigme Togbyel ‘17, Chair of the Student Budgeting Committee (SBC) is attempting to develop a formal funding process for athletic groups. Cole Graham ‘17, Chair of Student Organizations, proposed the idea of a separate Recreations Department and committee to handle funding for club sports, in line with other colleges.
  • Hung proposed having a World Cultural Showcase to allow different identity groups to put on arts performances. This was inspired by the Asian Heritage Month’s showcase last semester, as well as Bryn Mawr’s Asian Students Association’s Cultural Show.  

Isaac Lee

Isaac is an economics and political science major. He is a Singaporean who grew up in Hong Kong. In America he discovered the wonders of Netflix and Uber. Other than devoting his time to The Daily Gazette, he is probably reading The Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal, or skim-reading the hundreds of pages assigned to typical Swatties.

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