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, September 24th, the Student Government Organization (SGO) Executive Board convened to discuss their goals for the semester.
At the start of the meeting, Co-President Josie Hung ‘19 announced that the focus of the meeting would be to devise a new mission for SGO. “People don’t really know what SGO’s purpose and what SGO’s mission is,” she said.
Some chairs expressed doubts that writing a new mission statement would be a meaningful goal. “We talk a lot about rebranding ourselves, but I feel that branding isn’t a mission because that’s not something that’s getting something done,” Chair of Environmental Impact, Calla Bush ‘20, said.
Despite controversy, SGO chairs reached a rough consensus on what SGO’s mission ought to be. Student Budget Committee Chair Roman Shemakov ‘20 suggested that SGO “[create] a platform for students to voice their concerns and to be responded to.” SGO should act as a “megaphone,” Shemakov said. His comments were met with nods of approval.
After discussing the mission statement, committee chairs brainstormed initiatives that would help SGO connect to the student community. Co-President David Pipkin ‘18 suggested that SGO facilitate discussions about controversial topics: “It seems that [Swarthmore has become] more of an echo chamber than a sounding board.” Pipkin referenced a 2016 debate on campus about economic inequality, which he thought helped stimulate interesting discussions.
Chair of Student Organizations Gus Burchell ‘20 agreed that SGO ought to encourage clubs to host forums where discussion could take place, but he voiced concern about SGO becoming involved in these events. “SGO would provide the facility but not necessarily do the logistics,” Burchell said.
Other proposed initiatives included a Sharples discussion table where students could talk to SGO members, a monthly town-hall style SGO meeting, and adding a Google Form to the SGO website where students could submit concerns.
The most popular initiative at the meeting, by far, involved farm animals. Chair of Student Life Policy Ivan Lomeli ‘19 suggested that SGO hold an event after the new Senate is inducted to “show who this year’s SGO is.” To attract students to the event, SGO would rent a lamb.
The chairs agreed that they would email an updated mission statement and a list of proposed initiatives to the student body after next week’s SGO meeting.
Other topics on the agenda included the upcoming Middle States accreditation process. Every ten years the college must conduct an extensive review to ensure that it is meeting the goals set forth by the regional accreditation commission so as to maintain its accreditation. Chair of Internal Affairs Henry Han read an email from Assistant Director of Residential Committees Isaiah Thomas, in which Thomas described the accreditation process as an opportunity for “figuring out if there’s anything the institution can do better.”
Four SGO chairs volunteered to sit on accreditation committees. The remaining spots will be filled by other Swarthmore students. The review will take two academic years to complete.
The meeting ended with a discussion about SGO’s upcoming constitutional review. The SGO constitution outlines the structure and operations of the organization. “This should be a way to filter down proposed amendments that aren’t that important,” Outreach Chair Jason Jin ‘20 described. The Committee chairs approved a proposal to include non-elected students on the review committee.
After a few more sheep jokes, Hung ended the meeting.
Featured image courtesy of The Daily Gazette.