President, Rachel Bell

My name is Rachel Bell and I want to be your next Student Council President. I know how to make StuCo relevant, responsive, representative, and, to give you another alliteration, pertinent and prevalent.

This past semester, you elected me to the position of Student Events Advisor on the current Student Council. I know how Council works, so will not waste your time climbing up the learning curve. Efficiency is key for handling student suggestions and working with the administration.

I realize that the constraints many Swatties face prevent them from actively engaging Student Council. Sure, we need to be more open, but that is not sufficient for a substantively good Student Council. I therefore seek to actively engage the student body: help me set the agenda. I will hold an open forum (with food!) at the beginning of each semester to find out what students want changed or maintained. I will audit the occasional meeting or practice for all student groups. I think Student Council needs to be more approachable, and I know it can be intimidating to contact the council, especially when you do not know any members. The relationship between Council and the students needs improvement. As part of a wider awareness campaign, I will always publish my personal contact information (rbell1, 214.783.6793), and will encourage students to talk to me in person. I can meet for coffee or lunch, or just for a brief chat, because I realize not everyone can attend forums and events, even if they are truly interested in the issue at hand. I believe (and hope!) I come off as friendly and approachable, and would like to utilize these traits to better acquaint Council with students. Do not feel bad about pestering me; I like it and am running for that very reason. After all, if elected, I will be hired to serve you. Students should demand nothing less than absolute dedication out of their President and I promise to provide that.

I do not think making a list of promises to improve day-to-day life is productive, for we all know what can make daily life at Swarthmore better. I doubt the other candidates and I differ on these issues. We do differ with regards to experience, and I know what Student Council can do. The interesting thing about Council that I learned this past semester is that the majority of its power is “soft,” so to speak, or indirect. Sending an email with a suggestion to Dining Services or to the Deans’ Office means a lot more when it comes from Council. The amount of change we can make is directly related to the amount of effort the Student Council President puts in. Again, I promise to fully dedicate myself to Student Council, and will not be an overstretched candidate. To make day-to-day improvements, I will hold agenda-setting forums at the beginning of the semester, table, poll students, accept emails, attend meetings and practices, encourage students to attend our open StuCo meetings, scout the Phoenix and the Gazette, and just listen to (or eavesdrop on) students’ common complaints. I like knowing all that is going on around campus.

I understand that inclusion issues and feelings of exclusion plague many student organizations. My solution is to include these groups in Council’s significant meetings with the real folks in charge, from the administration to the Board of Managers. The Board of Managers meets several times throughout the school year, and often gets the final say in many important college decisions. I will not only invite representatives of these groups to the more open luncheon, but will also ask these groups to prep me on their concerns before I sit in on the closed-door meetings.

Many students do not how to fully utilize the college’s resources, or where to go when trying to start a group or to find funding. I propose a more interactive online handbook of sorts, which will tell people “Where do you go if you need x, y, and z.” I think having an overall awareness-promoting campaign can help too, and I do not just mean printing a newsletter. For example, we all read the postings in the bathroom about what is new at McCabe, and I will do similar advertising for Council. This will both inform students of what Council is doing (making it relevant) but will also hopefully educate students on how they can maneuver within the bureaucracy. I would like to work with the Phoenix and the Daily Gazette on having an “Ask StuCo President” column, a “Dear Abby” program of sorts.

Another thing few students know about Student Council is that it works much better and is much more active when its members enjoy going to meetings. Dreading the Sunday meeting (7pm, Parrish Parlors – come!) does not generate active participation during the meeting. I think leadership style has a lot to do with this, and I have the right leadership style. I am efficient, bubbly, open-minded, and do not take myself too seriously.

This coming year is unique for two reasons. First, we will welcome a new president, Dr. Chopp. I will start from the ground running with Dr. Chopp, and truly introduce her to the students. I want to shape her daily routine at Swarthmore from the beginning, so that she is not some distant administrator. A new president is a very exciting opportunity for all of us. Second, the inevitable budget cuts will occur. I promise to maintain dialogue with the Deans and Suzanne Welsh about what cuts will be made, and will discourage them from cutting vital student programs and events. One thing I hope to increase (or maintain, at the very least) is the student employment level. I know that many students rely on finding work on campus and need that paycheck. I will make sure student jobs are not slashed without serious consideration, and will explore ways to increase student employment opportunities.

Students lose faith and interest in Student Council when they believe it is irrelevant and ineffective. Things should not be this way and I will make sure they are not. There is too much at stake and, quite frankly, too much money at our fingertips.

Thank you for your time and please vote for Rachel Bell ‘10.


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0 comments

  1. 0
    AYC says:

    Thanks for the response, Rachel. I think my question is especially pertinent now that HR has officially cut pay for all but four jobs on campus. How will you work with the administration to hopefully reverse these cuts?

  2. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    AYC,
    That's a good question, and something I have not officially decided. I would have to weigh between
    1. student opinion
    2. estimates of costs
    And, of course, the willingness of Public Safety and others will play a big role.

    But to be more direct, here's where I stand these days: A blue light system may not be the best; what it might accomplish could also be accomplished with better lighting, making sure all students have Public Safety's emergency number in their phones, and perhaps a few more call boxes (all of which would cost a lot less than installing a blue light system). Pursuing the latter three (the second of which would not be pursued in the same nature as the first and third) is what I would like (and plan) to do.
    Though — if a sizable majority of students prefer the blue light system, I feel it is my obligation to explore the option.
    I do think it is ideal for students to be informed of the more serious incidents right after they happen, rather than the next morning.

    Thanks for the question.

  3. 0
    AYC says:

    Hi Rachel,
    So you mention that the college is making tons of budget cuts, and that you'll be fighting for student jobs. But at the same time, you want Swarthmore to implement an incredibly costly and frankly unnecessary blue light system? Why is this? We're not in Philly here, incidents occur about once a decade. This doesn't sound like a reasonable priority.

  4. 0
    a parent says:

    If this was an isolatied "crime spree" by two youths from a surrounding community, there is no amount of money Swarthmore could spend to bring that risk to zero. Obviously, lights won't do it. It's hard to imagine a better lighted intersection than the CVS across from Target. That's an intersection of two four-lane streets. You could probably read the newspaper by street light in the CVS parking lot.

    You would have to fence the campus and go to a gated enclave with security checkpoints to get on campus. Nobody would want that, especially to prevent one mugging every eight years. Heck, nobody even wants to shut the doors to Willetts at night.

    It's a lousy target for that sort of crime. Mugging people in the Springfield Mall parking lot on Baltimore Pike would be far more productive in terms of easy targets and ready escape routes by blending into the traffic.

  5. 0
    Miles Skorpen ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

    Huzilla,

    I think *you* are the one with "views … extremely out of tune with those of most of the students in Swarthmore College."

    At the least the vast majority of people I know (including SHCs) think your over-the-top fear mongering is ridiculous. You have yet to give any indication of how blue lights might be better than a few more lights on campus. And particularly for the robbery earlier this week—there should be blue lights in the middle of Mertz field? Really?

    Maybe the reason Haverford is safer is that it is further from a train station, not because of its ridiculous safety measures. And how the heck is an honor code going to stop robberies? Haverford also have 600 fewer students, which suggests that the above stats are perfectly in line with that we should expect—2/3 the robberies, a similar number of sex-assaults (which is a HIGH number per student), etc. Try interpreting the numbers more. They support "a parent" (who, I agree, is probably ID).

    The single best solution would be a higher police/security presence. But Swatties aren't willing to go that route.

  6. 0
    a parent says:

    I don't want to get into a discussion of sex offenses on college campuses. These are nearly 100% reported student-student incidents, almost always involving students who knew each other (at least for a night). That's a serious problem, actually much more serious and frequent than random crime committed by outsiders, but it has little to do with a discussion of safety or blue lights or security patrois — unless you are proposing putting blue lights in dorm rooms.

    The top action to prevent forcible sex offenses is to make sure that all students (both female and male) understand the legal ramifcations of consent, especially as it relates to intoxication preventing clear legal consent).

    As far as crime going "up", this week's incident was the first reported mugging/robbery since the 2001 train tunnel wallet heist. One every eight years constitutes a relatively low rate.

  7. 0
    Huzilla says:

    A parent, your views are extremely out of tune with those of most of the students in Swarthmore College.

    While I admit that you did, in fact find a school with similar or exceeding rates of crime on campus, the question was purely rhetorical. No doubt, other schools on the list were much less violent. Consider, the statistics for Haverford College, a school very close geographically to Swarthmore and of similar traditions and size.

    These statistics are from 2006-2008

    Aggravated Assault:
    Haverford 0

    Arson:
    Haverford 1

    Burglary
    Haverford 41

    Motor Vehicle Theft
    Haverford 0

    Forcible Sex-Offense
    Haverford 13

    Found at http://www.haverford.edu/security/compliance.pdf

    Perhaps our administration should consider what our tri-co sister school Haverford has done to have much lower levels of crimes in all levels except forcible sex-offense. Measures such as an Honor code and a BLUE LIGHT SYSTEM, are both found on this statistically safer campus.

    Furthermore, I would like to express what I believe is a common view among current students that crime has gone up the past few years at Swarthmore College. Consider, that we did not have an armed robbery from 2005-2007.

    While you may have 100% confidence in the ability of Swatties to "use common sense" the 15 victims of Forcible sex-offenses may believe that the administration could do more to protect its students. Swarthmore students DO use common sense. However, the walk from, say McCabe Library to Roberts dorm is poorly lit. Light night study sessions at the library are difficult to avoid at schools as prestigious as Swarthmore. Students have to make these type of walks so often that it is unrealistic to think that they will call Public Safety every time it happens.

    A parent, this weekend is Parent's weekend. Perhaps you should come and ask students their views on the safety situation here on campus. Simply ask them if they feel that the school administration has done enough to keep them safe. I guarantee you that you will have very few informed students give you a straight yes.

  8. 0
    a parent says:

    RE: #21

    Amherst had a student hospitalized with serious injuries after a stabbing about a month ago. I would say that counts as a serious crime. Everyone entering an Amherst party must now be searched for weapons.

    The statistics you asked about are required to be reported by every college under the Clery Act. Here are the three year totals (2005-2007) in the relevant categories for both Swarthmore and Amherst. I'm including just the incidents reported on campus at both schools:

    Aggravated Assault:
    Swarthmore 5
    Amherst 5

    Arson:
    Swarthmore 2
    Amherst 6

    Burglary:
    Swarthmore 64
    Amherst 100

    Motor Vehicle Theft:
    Swarthmore 2
    Amherst 6

    Forcible Sex-Offense:
    Swarthmore 15
    Amherst 16

    If you would like, you can easily find the same data for any college, including places like Harvard, Columbia, UPenn, UChicago, and UC-Berkeley where Swatties go to grad school every year without incident despite campus crimes rates orders of magnitude higher than Swarthmores. I have 100% confidence in the ability of Swatties to use common sense and handle themselves appropriately in bubble like Swarthmore or in the real world of city streets.

  9. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    In addition to what I added earlier (comment #22), I would like to stress that I think the president carries different responsibilities and must assume a different role on campus, especially in terms of knowing what all is happening on campus, and changes that groups want made or concerns that groups and students have. I know some groups have legitimate concerns about being represented fully on Council, and I do not take issue with that. And I think Council is far (very far) from perfect in terms of how well it represents our community.
    I really want to take on this role and assume the responsibility. I have not been meeting with individual students and groups during the campaign period because I do not think that is genuine. I promise I will if elected…right away even, before the school year ends. I'll even be here this summer and will work with the administration during that time, especially if that is what students want (and I think some do). I really care about life on our campus and making sure I do my best to not only hear all voices but to actually implement/ follow through/ take action. I can only hope that my sincerity comes off and that I appear genuine, for I really am.
    With that said, I would love to talk to any students (casually, more formally, etc) who may be concerned about whether or not I can really meet their needs. Obviously, I cannot truly represent all on campus, but I do not think that means I cannot and will not work my hardest to fulfill their agendas and goals.

  10. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    I would like all students to know that a BIG part of my campaign is to hold a forum at the beginning of the semester for students to help me set the Student Council agenda. If some students do not feel as if I have touched on enough issues, or if I have not discussed issues important to them, it's not that I do not prioritize them.
    I simply think that I can do a better job serving and representing the students if they tell me what they want accomplished. That is not to say I will not step up and come up with my own initiatives – especially if the student response is not strong, but I want you all to decide what goes on the agenda.
    Thanks.

  11. 0
    Huzilla says:

    Thanks Rachel. If you are elected, I hope you consider school safety a priority on the StuCo agenda.

    M, while I can not give you numbers or statistics, I can ask you a few simple questions. Do you feel that the Administration has done all it can to keep its students safe? Have they explored every option and come to a conclusion different than so many other schools of similar caliber?

    Consider the following, since the beginning of the year, Swarthmore has had a break-in at Willets, cars stolen on campus, school owned vehicles destroyed, and now an armed robbery. Which of the schools mentioned above have had a list of serious crimes as long as Swarthmore's this year?

  12. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    Huzilla,
    I began my term this spring semester, quite a bit after the break-in in Willets in the fall. Sadly and to be perfectly frank, it has not been a huge part of the agenda this semester; it has not gone off the agenda and one or two members discussed improving the lighting situation with Public Safety, but it has not (this semester) been pursued further. Though Student Council today discussed both the rhetoric of the initial campus-wide email, and how Yongjun will be meeting with Public Safety soon.
    In the fall, Yongjun proposed several initiatives (from looking into a camera system to creating a Safety Committee to be a liaison between the students and Public Safety), but I do not think the other side reciprocated as much.
    I think StuCO can push Public Safety more to do what students believe would be beneficial, and recent events should cause Public Safety to do more, both because of student input (pressure from Council, which will increase), out of their own interest, and out of the interest of the administration. I do not think the administration is against us, in this matter.

  13. 0
    Miles Skorpen ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

    Huzilla,

    As someone interested in getting the blue-light system at Swarthmore, can you provide any evidence that it has helped prevent a *single* crime at the colleges you listed?

  14. 0
    huzilla says:

    Rachel, as a member of student council, can you talk a little about what the organization has done to pressure the Administration to pay more on security? It seems like Swarthmore is one of the only schools without a blue light system. Williams, Amherst, Middleburry, and most of the Ivys have them.

  15. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    Just again, to sum up some key points, I propose the following:

    -open-forum for agenda setting at the beginning of each semester (help me decide the agenda)
    -casual meetings with student leaders about what is going on in their groups, and with hosts of events to find out what was difficult about getting funds, reimbursals, etc
    -a more flexible Fitness Training course to meet the PE requirement (i.e., go to Mullan Center three times a week at whatever time you wish)
    -updating the Class Rec Book. We all should have online access to course evaluations that are not outdated
    -Safety!! Better lighting (easy to do), blue light or similar system (will be difficult but I will push for this), and utilization of the emergency text message system when incidents occur so we do not find out the morning after incidents occur.
    -discussing the establishment of an official policy regarding perpetrators of sexual assault
    -a biannual professional cleaning of Paces (sounds trivial, but I have heard countless complaints regarding the state of Paces)
    -making sure student jobs are not cut first, by working with the Deans' Office, the departments, and the other offices that hire student around campus
    -An "Ask Student Council President" column in the Daily Gazette and Phoenix
    -working with SBC to make the budget more open and public. I think it is fair for students to know how the student activities fee is spent
    -Open up the Board of Managers pseudo-open luncheon we currently have in place to all interested students
    -Consult with interested student groups before attending the closed-door meetings of the Board of Managers – I want them to prep me.
    -longer term goal: work with Board of Managers on hiring/promoting diverse faculty members; one fault of the college currently is that the faculty is not representative of our diverse community
    -an interactive handbook or flow chart on where to go for funding, etc: posted online (stuco website, sbc website — advertised heavily), and also posted on the Student Council board in Parrish
    -Student Council presence at international students' orientation and subsequent orientation activities

    And I am welcome to all and more suggestions. I'm excited about potentially having the opportunity to push ahead and serve the community more beyond my current role on Student Council, SAC, and the Charter Committee.

  16. 0
    SA says:

    "a more flexible Fitness Training course to meet the PE requirement (i.e., go to Mullan Center three times a week at whatever time you wish)"

    Great idea! I have wanted something like this for a long time.

  17. 0
    Order of the Phoenix says:

    I think "Annoyed" may have thought that the Rachel's suggestion of a need for a female president was a bit of a low blow, as did "M".

  18. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    As a response to the last comment: we do not yet know for sure. The college will make many cuts across the board. Two members of Student Council will meet with Suzanne Welsh tomorrow to get more details about the budget cuts and to discuss the use of the rollover money. Once that meeting has occurred, the current Student Council will have more information about changes in the budget.
    Part of my platform involves keeping students as informed as possible about cuts and potential cuts (for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011), which Student Council has not done yet because the college is still making decisions.
    I do not think it is too unreasonable to expect that the college will shed some student jobs, especially as it reevaluates the hours that different facilities will remain open, and as departments try to cut expenditures. I want to make sure that students still have as many ways as possible to earn money.
    I know you would like more information; I do as well at this point. I will know more by Wednesday midday.

  19. 0
    Anonymous says:

    Is there any real danger of student jobs being cut? Where did that come from, and why haven't we heard about it before if it's going to be a serious issue?

  20. 0
    hello? says:

    well annoyed if you are referring to the fact that both candidates are white, why didn't you encourage any of your friends of color to run?

  21. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    Froshie,
    I did not totally get to finish because I had to run to a SAC meeting.

    The one problem is that we are not totally aware about the extent of the budget cuts; two members of Student Council will meet with Suzanne Welsh tomorrow, and after that meeting, I will have a better sense of what is practical and feasible. I want to be as open as possible with the students about what will go away, and what we can try to do to change the cuts.

    One thing that I think can also be improved has to do with the awkward situation some truly great student projects encounter. The Lang Center offers Foundation grants and other forms of seed money that fund new groups for a year. After the funding period runs out, successful initiatives run into the issue of trying to find sources of funding through the different offices on campus or by requesting charters. I think improving students' access to information on how and where to apply for funding can help remedy this problem, but I would also like to work more intensely with the Lang Center and SBC on this issue.

    After talking with several ML residents, I also believe the morning shuttle can be revamped to run at later times, for not all students have earlier classes. SBC is in charge of this van service, so I will talk to them about running the shuttle later, which would the added bonus of increasing student employment opportunities on campus.

    Thanks again for your time!

  22. 0
    Froshie says:

    Thanks very much Rachel! I really think that the lighting at night is a big issue and I'm glad that both you and Shaun have mentioned it in your platforms.

  23. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    Froshie,
    Yes, I do. The reason I did not mention them as much in my platform is that oftentimes debates in the past focus on small, tangible changes rather than an overall vision for the Council. Those outside of Council sometimes cannot gage which small policies can be implemented, so the campaign does not always match what happens during the presidency.

    I want student input, but below I list some things I endorse aside from better lighting and an online handbook. I would like to remind you and other students that I believe all of these changes are implementable if we have a strong and dedicated President. I know that they can be done based on my experience on Student Council.

    -open-forum for agenda setting at the beginning of each semester
    -attending various student groups and meeting with leaders of groups, clubs, plays, teams, etc.
    -a more flexible Fitness Training course to meet the PE requirement (i.e., go to Mullan Center three times a week at whatever time you wish)
    -a biannual professional cleaning of Paces (sounds trivial, but I have heard countless complaints regarding the state of Paces)
    -making sure student jobs are not cut first, by working with the Deans' Office, the departments, and the other offices that hire student around campus — you would be amazed how much the offices prioritize and value requests from Student Council; and seeking to increase student employment opportunities
    -An "Ask Student Council President" column in the Daily Gazette and Phoenix
    -working with SBC to make the budget more open and public. I think it is fair for students to know how the student activities fee is spent

    These are just a few of the more tangible things I hope to accomplish. As I mentioned, my overarching goal is for Student Council to be more proactive in its interactions with the rest of the student body. That is why I will hold an open forum to help set the Student Council agenda for each semester and why I will actively seek out leaders of established and emerging student groups.

    Please let me know if that helps answer your question, and if you have any more.

    Thanks.

  24. 0
    Froshie says:

    Reading your platform, it really seems that you stress that you want student input for the decisions you will make as Presidents. However, other than increased lighting and an online handbook, do you have other ideas that you think students would appreciate?

  25. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    I'm sorry, M and whoever else who felt similarly, for I do not mean to use it as an argument. I guess I had just thought it might be cool and a bit of a change, so that was just my own personal opinion inserted there. I think you and everyone else should evaluate the candidates based on our platforms and the upcoming debates (as of now: Wednesday, 7pm, Kohlberg Coffee Bar). It also seemed to me that Shaun and I have very similar platforms, so that was another reason why I added the one thing that I thought was interesting and a deviation from the recent trend.
    Sorry if I caused offense; I never intended nor do I intend to do so.

  26. 0
    Rachel Bell says:

    And in case you do not check out the facebook group, here is the additional information:

    Though not mentioned in my official platform, I do have a few other proposals and important notes to perhaps distinguish me from the other candidate:
    –While I want students to help me to set the agenda each semester, I do have some ideas for policy initiatives of my own, with which I hope students agree. These include improvements in day-to-day student life, such as having a biannual professional cleaning of Paces, extending the hours of Cornell library, increasing support for previously underfunded and underrepresented student groups and club sports, and a revamping of the current shuttle system. We do have to be realistic, however, and realize that we cannot be too ambitious in terms of increasing expenses for the college, given the pressure on the budget.
    –Additionally, I will work on initiatives focusing on both the safety of students (better lighting, making sure all the lights actually work, call boxes around campus) and recourse for incidents of sexual assault. While I believe there are many sources of support for victims of the latter, many find the college's lack of definite policy for the perpetrators to be frustrating. I would like to work with the Deans on improving this situation. Those seeking to make the campus safer in some way should not become subject to very public trials and gossip. That is not right.
    –While I believe that this should not ultimately determine someone's vote, and I find it important and absolutely essential to engage both the candidates on a (directly) substantive level, I do think putting a female in office is important. The past two presidents and three vice presidents have been male, and I think it is important for the campus to "mix it up" in terms of the gender balance in student government.

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