Recently, huge questions have been raised about the role of College Government, CG, on Wellesley’s campus. In theory, CG advocates for the needs and wishes of the student body, listening to the campus and developing policy around these needs. However, the issues of the past three weeks have proven that this year’s cabinet has not performed its prescribed functions. Cabinet members have become both the policymakers and the lobbyists for issues, insularly creating new policy and then pushing it through senate. They’ve completely disempowered student voice, claiming time and time again and without merit, that students just don’t care about the issues and policies of CG.
Over the past few weeks, they have made no serious committed efforts to listen to student suggestions and incorporate them, hosting only a few listening sessions where they defended and advertised their plan, rather than seeking to improve it with input from students. They continue to place the pressure on students to inform themselves about the issues instead of going to org meetings or speaking to student representatives purposefully. Even when senators raised several serious concerns about proposed policy changes, such as the implications of the change from the paid hourly labor of the student organizations and appointment committees (SOAC) coordinators to a cabinet members stipend, cabinet members sidelined these concerns or failed to fully address them, believing and maintaining that they always know best. As a result, several senators expressed that they felt they were being pressured to vote against the wishes of their constituency, a deeply troubling idea with huge implications.
For this measure specifically, even the concerns of student appointees, the exact constituents that these changes would directly affect, went unaddressed. Elizabeth Loizides ’19 shared that, “As a SOAC appointed representative on a few different committees, I know that I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to serve on the new appointments committee, especially given the amount of time that the committees take in my schedule and the other commitments I have on campus.” Serious concerns from former SOAC members such as Jackie Ehrlich ’18, appointments coordinator ’17-’18, on issues such as proposed compensation and concerns about exclusivity were not responded to or even recognized. Rather than educating students on the nuance and complexities of these huge questions, cabinet deliberately chose to utilize under-the-door spamming, their exclusive privilege, to push one side of the debate — their side of the debate.
In addition, given that most cabinet members don’t return to their roles or are graduating seniors, they are not being held truly accountable to the student body and have no incentive to value student input or change their policies in line with student opinion. The impeachment process is an extreme measure that realistically we would never use. And the last few weeks have shown that the senate policy and ethics committee (SPEC) does not truly have the institutional power to act as a check on CG proceedings, especially when it is composed mainly of senators who all vote on the issues as well.
Regardless of how you may feel about the cabinet restructuring measure, you should be deeply concerned with the unilateral changes to cabinet’s responsibilities and campus presence we are witnessing. Students, no matter their level of involvement with CG, are affected by changes in these policies and they need to be respected, empowered by and involved in these processes. CG should reflect and amplify the voices of students on campus, not push their own agenda and way of thinking. In addition, safeguards such as transparent voting practices should be institutionalized.
I spent three years in various different parts of College Government, including senate and SOAC. I don’t doubt that every single person who dedicates their time and energy to this effort truly believes that they are helping the student body and improving the campus. However, these good intentions do not change the fact that the impact of their work may do more harm than good.