StuCo Platforms; Campus Life Representative: Kate Aronoff ’14

I’m Kate Aronoff, and I would like to be your Campus Life Representative.

While I don’t usually play in the realm of electoral politics, in my two years at Swarthmore it has become increasingly apparent that there is a disconnect between the needs and concerns of students and those of the administration. Student Council exists to address this divide, and that’s exactly why I want to be a part of it.

As Campus Life Representative, I won’t pretend to act as your voice until I’ve heard it, and will do everything in my power to provide ample and accessible opportunities for your genuine input. Much of what has frustrated me about Swarthmore’s decision-making processes has been their willingness to aggregate student support out of little material reality. I am not a part of many of your communities, but want to give them a Representative (literally) voice in Student Council’s operations, whether or not that turns out to be representative of my own experience–which I fully acknowledge does not represent all of yours. I realize that the Mary Lyons’ breakfast room is in need of serious repair, and that the Field House is quite literally falling apart. While I will make no claims of being able to fix either these problems in one semester, I will promise to actively listen to the concerns of those effected by these and other issues and do my best to make their voices a critical part of the conversations of both Student Council and the administration.

As a sophomore, much of my time outside of the classroom has been spent challenging Swarthmore to become a better institution. I’ve been organizing with Mountain Justice since its inception last winter and with the Swarthmore Labor Action Project (SLAP) since the fall of my first year. Whether or not you agree with the politics or analyses of these groups, my time with them has built my skills as a facilitator for discussion and put me in the room with a number of administrators, allowing me to form productive working relationships with them. In theory, my role as an activist should not be wildly different from my role on StuCo: pushing the administration to work tirelessly in best representing the concerns of the student body while helping them along in the process. It does not serve to be antagonistic with the administration; productive working relationships with administrators have been responsible for much of the positive change which has occurred at Swarthmore since its founding. It isn’t productive in the least, however, to stultify action for fear of somehow offending them personally. If we want to be taken seriously as a student body, we need the administration to respect us as adults, not as a bunch of adolescents running around Camp Swarthmore.

This isn’t to suggest that life at Swarthmore can’t be fun; it is. I’ve had some of the best times of my life on Swarthmore’s campus, times that wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the combined efforts of the student body, StuCo and the administration to make entertainment on campus–wet and dry–as accessible as it is. Whether it’s a delightfully sloppy night at Paces from SAC or the latest blockbuster from the Movie Committee, life at Swarthmore doesn’t end in the classroom. As an ASAP facilitator, however, I know that social spaces on campus are not as safe as they could be. I look forward to working with Worth Health Center Director Beth Kotarski and the SMART team to make these and other spaces truly accessible and provide increased support to survivors of sexual assault.

Where committees can make positive interventions in Swat social life, they can also be a powerful way of decentralizing administrative power. Committees can make what happens at Swarthmore a far more horizontal process. In their ideal, they do exactly that, but in practice have served in many cases as a pacifying force for mitigating genuine student concerns and guiding output almost unilaterally towards administrative interests. I look forward to working with the rest of the Council to ensure that the decisions which effect the student body are firmly in the hands of the students themselves.

Positive change on this campus has been the result of the student body, not the benevolence of the administration. Student Council should and can work as a voice for students in the goings-on of the College. It is disheartening and dishonest for any decision making body to claim student support without their input. If you vote for me, my first communication with you as Campus Life Representative will not be telling you my beliefs; it will be asking for yours.

 


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