CamCo (formerly StuCo) Report: “Action Steps”

After extensive reorganization and re-branding, in addition to recent elections, student government resumed its work in Parrish Parlors last Sunday. Co-president Elena Schlessinger ’15 opened this semester’s first Campus Council (CamCo, formerly StuCo) meeting with a call for “action steps.”

“It’s important that we get our projects done,” Schlessinger said, expressing the need to achieve tangible results. In the face of skepticism from students, Schlessinger said that CamCo should shy away from abstract, overarching projects.

Schlessinger went on to propose a bi-weekly, off-the-record meeting to discuss Campus Council matters not suited to public meetings, such as the way student government is perceived by community members.

Student Groups Advisor David Ding ’16 proposed Sharples tabling to improve communication with students, offering to man the table several times a week. The council agreed to weekly or biweekly Sharples tabling.

Schlessinger then shifted the meeting to bigger projects.

CamCo discussed dividing up the Margolis Healey report on College policies to simplify it and make it more accessible to students. Financial Policy Representative Razi Shaban ’16 said the Phoenix is already working on this. CamCo then decided to wait for more information on the Phoenix‘s activities.

Next, Schlessinger moved to the proposed academic guide. In dealing with professors, she said, students are often clumsy and awkward.

“Students are less than professional in these kinds of situations,” Schlessinger said.

The proposed guide will try to explain to students the subtleties of interacting with professors.

Moving forward in their agenda, CamCo unanimously agreed that Essie Mae’s offerings are unsatisfactory. The council will try to find cheap replacements for the current products on offer.

“[We need to] replace some of the less favorable things with equally cheap, more favorable things,” Schlessinger said. Shaban suggested “crowdsourcing” the process. Other council members thought this was a good idea.

Educational Policy Representative Marian Firke ’14 suggested using the “Small Steps Forward” board created last semester to get ideas for Essie Mae’s. She also proposed putting specific prompts on the thus far underused board to attract more input.

Shaban spoke about an initiative to create an internal Swarthmore version of the popular website RateMyProfessors.com. In speaking about the costs of this project, CamCo concluded that someone would need to receive reimbursement for their efforts. Co-President Jason Heo ’15 turned to the Student Budget Committee President Jacob Adenbaum ’14, present at the meeting, to discuss possible future funding.

Heo went on to discuss the idea of creating a website with information about student groups and activities, as well as academic resources, called the Student Resource Guide (SRG). When told that Mike Elias’s office is working on a similar project, Heo made it clear that his idea was a separate project.

Other conversations included Chastity Hopkins ’15 suggesting that CamCo cooperate with Swat Seventh Fan’s Aaron Jackson ’16 and Yohan Sumathipala ’16 to help raise money for a social action project in Sri Lanka. Swat Seventh Fan raises money for every person that pledges to go to a Swarthmore athletics game in a dual effort to get more people to attend games and also support a meaningful cause.

Schlessinger concluded the meeting by discussing plans for the upcoming student government Facebook page.

Featured image by Kat Clark ’12/The Daily Gazette.


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Eduard Saakashvili

Eduard is a film and media studies major from Tbilisi, Georgia. He abandoned The Daily Gazette during sophomore year to focus on his career in club fencing. Big mistake.

7 comments

  1. 0
    Maria Rogers '14 says:

    That’s brilliant! You have a really tough job right now and I really appreciate the work you are doing! It should get easier to communicate once some of the structure is in place!

  2. 0
    Maria Rogers '14 says:

    I applaud the effort being made to re-brand Stu-Co but I feel that there needs to be more of a focus on collecting and having student ideas heard by the administration. I have been very frustrated with the adjunct/tenure situation and with the attitude I have met from members of the admin staff that we do “as well as other colleges” and that “students leave every four years.”

    I would love for someone to organize a history of student activism at Swarthmore so that new students realize how much can be achieved by participation in Swarthmore politics. (For instance according to Professor Barry Schwartz it was student agitation that got the college to start paying employees a living wage instead of minimum wage.)

    I think that we can do much more to improve Swat and that while it would be fine if a subcommittee wanted to work on improving the choices at Essie’s let’s not let ourselves be distracted from making substantial changes to how the school addresses issues like:

    drinking on campus
    opening of new tenure track positions
    the inn (which, in case anyone is under the same impression I was IS being paid for by the college)
    faculty/student/administrative diversity
    a means to involve all students honestly when we have conflicts
    reorganization of the comments sections of our publications so that trolling behavior becomes socially looked down upon (rather than “oh, what did you expect from reading DG comments?”)
    child care solutions for college employees
    a student “group for transparency” to perhaps talk to admin and report back to student body so that we don’t have to sift through vague generality filled e-mails from administration.
    Maybe some “what to do if….” guides

    Anyways. I’m talking a lot. But I must admit that I was hoping for something more involved than a “rate your professor” site. Let’s not lose momentum. Think bigger.

      1. 0
        Kenneson Chen '14 says:

        DO YOU EVEN GO HERE?! Uncalled for and unwanted. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things to be better than they are. I’m glad there are many people on this campus who are actively working to accomplish that goal. Don’t detract from their sentiments and work with snark and trolling.

        Only patience I have for trolls: “Tröll eru þjóðsagnapersónur eru ekki til í veruleikanum í venjulegum skilningi.”

    1. 0
      Dougal '11 says:

      Re: living wage stuff, Andrew Karas wrote a nice piece summarizing the history of living wage activism at Swat last year. There’s also some articles from the time available in the DG’s archives, e.g. this piece when the 2004 proposal was adopted.

      More generally: obviously it’s important to think about and tackle big issues. But it’s also important to keep in mind that big changes are really hard, and most attempts at even small changes are way harder than you’d think. Higher ed, even Swarthmore, is a slow institution.

      For example, various iterations of Student Council have been working on some form of a student resource guide for literally years: in this report I wrote in fall 2010 StuCo said it would be definitely done by the end of the semester, at which point people claimed in the comments that it had been worked on for two years (though I can’t find citations of that in thirty seconds of googling, it more or less jives with my memory there). I don’t remember if they actually released a guide and this is an update or a rewrite of it, or if that guide just vanished into the aether.

      There’s also a comically long history of people proposing and trying to put together a Swat-specific course/professor reviews site – there used to be one that people actually used, but it broke when the student who wrote it graduated around 2007, and though lots of people have proposed reviving it or starting a new one or whatever since then, nobody’s gone past the incredibly-basic prototype stage. (I wrote up a several-pages-long history of this, though it currently lives in the private SCCS wiki.)

      So? My examples here are both kind of trivial things, not the big issues you talk about here. And that’s true: it’s easier to get people to care about (certain) big-deal issues, or things that affect everyone’s day-to-day lives like the items at Essie Mae’s. But even for those issues, if you want to change something, someone needs to do it, dedicate a huge amount of effort to it, get other people to do the same, and know that even then it might take years and it may or may not even happen, and it may or may not last. For example, most current students probably don’t know this, but there was a huge student effort to “kick Coke” because of worries about human rights abuses overseas, which happened in 2006 and lasted for a few years until the administration decided they weren’t going to do that anymore as of 2009.

      So, yeah, change is hard. Not to say that it can’t work! But be wary of asking for too much without being willing to commit a lot to it, because nothing’ll come of it. Asking Stu/CamCo to form a subcommittee isn’t enough: someone needs to take ownership of it.

      That said, a history of student activism and the other “big things” that happen on campus sounds like a great idea. Make it a wiki or something with summaries of what happened and links to DG/Phoenix articles and whatever else is available online, and I’d happily fill in what I remember from my time.

      – an insomniac former DG editor

      1. 0
        Maria Rogers '14 says:

        Hi Dougal,
        I did not want to minimize the amount of effort required to make changes in a bureaucracy. And I often think that focusing on a doable project is an important part of demonstrating that stuco can be a means for student participation.

        But part of what I find frustrating is the sense that there must be systems that could be in place to expedite the process and share the burden of work.

        From what I’ve seen, change tends to be pushed for by relatively small groups and a few people spend a lot of time and effort and then when they are gone projects die down. I feel like there must be a way to crowd source and get more students involved (perhaps in a smaller capacity than before) so that they are paying attention to issues and are able to push for a continuation of the progress that was made before them.

        Thanks for the articles they made for interesting reads.

    2. 0
      Marian '14 says:

      Hey Maria–

      Just wanted to let you know that this feedback is greatly appreciated. One thing that frustrates me as Educational Policy Rep is that I have been doing work on some of the issues on this list, but I’m forbidden from disclosing what I’m actually doing because so much of my position works on confidential committees.

      One item that was not discussed in great depth at the meeting due to time constraints (but which was touched on briefly and which we will talk about in more depth in the future) is the fact that those same confidential committees are deeply problematic. One of the benefits of the new student assembly structure is that we will be able to better organize subcommittees–one of which will be a student-run, student-chaired Committee on Academic Affairs. And you better believe that agenda item #1 will be drafting proposals to better support student and faculty diversity. (Also on our radar for the semester: Increasing curricular flexibility, studying the current course evaluations system, compiling a report on student experiences with off-campus study, and more–if we have time!)

      I can also tell you that this new structure should hopefully give us a broader range of feedback on which to base CamCo/SGO proposals, so that we’re being more representative of the student body as a whole. The Academic Affairs subcommittee will also be deliberately working to reach out to people in a variety of settings to get feedback. Although planning on this hasn’t happened yet (because the subcommittee has not yet been formed) I’m hoping that we’ll be able to include conversations situated in the IC, BCC, fraternity lodges, WRC, and Bond as ways to ensure that these conversations are able to fully represent the range of opinion at Swat. (One thing we heard a LOT last semester was that large, high-stakes, all-campus forums can be a difficult venue for a lot of people to feel comfortable expressing themselves, so I’m working to make sure that we give people more avenues to speak in a context that will be lower-pressure for them. And of course, people can always feel free to pass their concerns and views onto their dorm and class senators, as well as by email to any member of Campus Council.)

      So I guess the short version of this is: I’m with you. I agree. Thank you for being so clear, specific, and direct. And we have more coming.

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