Not to rain on the anti-cluster housing intellectual mob’s parade by bringing up another subject, or anything, but the Record‘s editorial this week on College Council is absolutely spot on.
College Council lacks the respect of the student body. And so we return to the theme that has been common on this page for far longer than we would like: CC absolutely must re-evaluate its role on campus, seriously reform its structure and find a way to be relevant to the vast majority of students who no longer take it seriously or care what it is doing…
So far this year, College Council has not accomplished results that would induce students to step up and submit a self-nom. CC has largely been on the sidelines of the cluster housing debate, oddly claiming credit for the delay of the Williams House System when the decision was made on concerns related to cost and dorm construction. As far as we can tell, Council’s only serious contribution to the cluster housing debate was the submission of a list of questions that had already been answered in public forums, complete with a thinly-veiled threat to the CUL. They also conducted, on behalf of the CUL, a basic survey of student perception of house quality.
The Record attributes Council’s irrelevance to two factors: Unweildy size and lack of a compelling agenda.
I’d have no problem with shrinking Council, as long as freshmen remain sufficiently underrepresented. The Record is completely correct that Council needs to start addressing other issues, a point that has been made before.
There is also a third problem CC suffers from. It has a meeting fetish. Stuff doesn’t get done when 30 people get in a room together and debate. As Godfrey Bakuli ’07 knows, stuff gets done when an informed student or group of students sit down and rationally explain something to the administration.
I was in a CC meeting a few years ago when they debated the College’s smoking ban and they decided to send a letter of protest to the administration stating that, and I’m paraphrasing, “no other college in our survey has a rule as to how far from a building you must be in order to smoke.” I informed I informed a Council member sitting near me that they must not have included Bowdoin in their survey because Bowdoin in fact had a much harsher rule. Literally the moment after he raised this objection somebody else moved to vote, it was seconded and the incorrect letter was sent. This is not how you effectively affect policymaking.
Council would be much more effective if it were a small group of students who saw their weekly meeting as only a minor part of the job of College Council. The real work is done by knowing what you’re talking about and using the prestige of your position to force the powers that be to listen to you.
Apparently, however, endlessly debating stupid letters is far more gratifying.