Late Tuesday night, a member of the Weekly Cad Team got a text message from Stone Mims with a casual proposal: we were invited, by him, to represent our newspaper at the first meeting of the new Student Government, set to take place the following day. At first, it was a scramble to find someone who could fit the meeting into their schedule, but after a short email exchange with Stone, I was ready to run from my last class to get there.
You see, the idea was that the Weekly Cad could be responsible for attending these meetings to summarize the major points that the Student Government would cover. We would then extend the information to our audience, which happens to be wider than the group of people who actually read their ‘college@’ emails. Such a concept happened to fit perfectly into a main objective of The Cad: breaking the gap in communication that is found at Simon’s Rock and opening up a channel of conversation through a shared platform. So, I was very ready to participate in this very fresh change to the structure of Simon’s Rock, hopefully, to spread clearer information about what was happening and get more of our community involved in the process itself.
These last parts are particularly important to me because, as a student, I had not been fully aware of the differences between Student Government and Student Council before going into this meeting. However, upon listening to the two ‘leaders’ (Stone Mims and Nancy Wen) talk, I realized how representative my position in that room was of what the Student Government hoped to become. Overall, the new government wants to create a group of individuals to lead the student body who actually represent it in all of its aspects. Stone reached out to the Weekly Cad because he wanted the information to be passed onto at least a good portion of the community, even people who might not usually seek out this information. This way, everyone who wished to be could be involved. So far, this has been working in their favor.
At the first meeting, there were 18 people present: not just the normal faces that you might expect to see at a Student Council meeting, but rather, a wide range of students, all from different student groups, brought together with the intentions of taking into consideration how the changes they hope to make affect every aspect of the student life at Simon’s Rock. Sitting in the room with me there was someone from RISE to advise on how to improve mental health on campus, a few Owl’s Nest peer mentors to focus on issues of CEI, representatives from nearly every class, the president of Interfaith Club, The Sustainability Committee, and the International Club, Academy representatives, and even more people representing more of their student groups. (If you would like a comprehensive list, check out the link to the minutes below the article).
Although this was just a quickly comprised group to begin the conversation about our current issues, it was created thoughtfully, and it showed. Sitting in that room, there was a far greater span of representation among students than I was yet to see in my two years here. I felt an air of respect amongst everyone there, as each person talked and offered input, where they might not usually get the chance, or even know they had one. At that moment, it dawned on me how necessary this change felt.
And so, the meeting progressed, as everyone engaged in this kind of respectful conversation about how to proceed in solidifying the structure of Student Government and in what way it fits into the already existing structure. This first topic was touched upon in a meeting Nancy had with Ian Bickford regarding Student Government, in which he expressed concerns with a system that erased student council as a whole but was willing to work with one that merged the two groups. (Unfortunately, Ian was not present at this meeting, so I am approximating where he stood, based on interpretation by the member of government. They hope to have him there to express his views at the next meeting).
To solve this issue, the two leaders of this discussion presented everyone with a model of what could be changed about the current systems in order to make them more fair. This diagram of Simon's Rock described how faculty and staff each have their own forums for discussing issues related to them, and that, although Community Council was supposed to be the equivalent of these forums for student problems, it did not often seem like that was true. Recently, Community Council had become not much more than a place people go to in order to approve budget requests. Students were supposed to run this council, without being given the power or positions to do so. The proposed Student Government would give the students this forum, making the Community Council a space for all three sectors to converge. This would likely mean that in one month you would have Student Government twice, Community Council once, and Community Meeting once as well.
The Student Government hopes this change will allow the students to take a more active role in their choices by encouraging more interaction among different student groups. Finalization of many aspects of the group are still happening, so if any of this interests you, I encourage you to voice your opinion, whatever that may be. Below is a survey made by the current members of Government to get a sense of how people feel about their changes. Feel free to take it.
Other specifics, not included in the survey, can be found in the minutes below. I encourage everyone who feels passionate about these issues to attend the next meeting on Wednesday, after Spring Break.
Winnie is the Co-Founder and an editor of the Weekly Cad