Alumni express concerns over new student government, Scot Council

Jordan Griffith

Members of the Board of Trustees,

We write to you as a collective of former members of Student Government Association (SGA) and Campus Council (CC) regarding the proposal to merge Campus Council and the Student Government Association into one novel organization. The following letter enumerates our concerns that the proposal weakens students’ access to administration, that the proposal weakens the tradition of collaboration that CC and the SGA represent, that the process of developing the proposal was undemocratic and that the time frame presented for successful reform is unrealistic and places an undue burden on the student leaders of the College. Ultimately, we ask you to reject the proposal so that proper time and care can be afforded to the important issue of improving these governing bodies. We stress we are not opposed to reform, as evidenced by the significant reforms we advanced in our time as leaders. We also came to understand the principle that change requires investment, careful planning and adequate time.

Wooster has been uniquely ahead of the curve in embracing a stakeholder model of campus governing as a result of extensive student activism in the 1960s. This proposal would have Wooster abandon our cutting-edge structure of giving staff, faculty, administration and students an equal seat at the table. It minimizes a format for students to bring concerns directly to representatives of each part of the campus in weekly, public and accountable forums. We value the efforts of administrators to be accessible, but no administration-led initiative can match the access that these two bodies provide, even in their current, imperfect forms. We are concerned that this new proposal would restrict the students’ ability to bargain as equals with the Board, the administration, the staff committees, and the faculty committees.

Every student-led initiative, protest and collective action in recent memory at Wooster has been designed to bring student voice to the table. If Wooster is to proceed with this new system, we roll back the efforts that our peers took to build a stronger community that includes all parts of the campus. Fundamentally, this proposal reduces student input in important decisions at Wooster, divides the community and is inconsistent with the principle of “independent minds working together.” We reiterate that we do not reject reform, but we propose that reform requires care and planning, two elements that have not been central to this process. Further, reform should be progressive, improving on the progress made in the past.

The hastiness with which the Oversight Task Force (Oversight Committee) has executed this process raises red flags. In just one semester, the group submits that they have fully and comprehensively assessed the efficiency levels of both SGA and CC and found them so inadequate that the only reasonable path forward is to eliminate both organizations. SGA and CC voted on the proposal in question merely two school months after announcing the intention to completely overhaul the existing bodies. We further understand that while developing the new organization’s constitution, the advocates for the proposal often responded to critique with hostility, focusing on minimizing input for the sake of expediency. We also understand that the committee refused to provide drafts of the proposed constitution during forums designed to solicit feedback. It alarms us that the people who will feel the direct ramifications of this overhaul have largely not had the chance to ruminate on the changes or provide meaningful feedback. Indeed, the opaque and rushed process behind the proposal seems out of alignment with Wooster’s prioritization of collaboration and community engagement.

In response to the Oversight Committee’s claim that the structure of SGA and CC is ineffective, we strongly disagree and respectfully point to several student-led projects and accomplishments from our tenures. Students leaders in SGA and CC created gender neutral housing which has helped the College remain competitive amongst its peers, made strides to improve student safety on campus, developed meaningful free-expression guidelines that encourage the intellectual growth of Wooster while recognizing the inherent dignity of every member of our community, reformed budgeting processes to ensure groups can contribute to a stronger Wooster community, developed new sustainability projects that reduced coffee cup waste by thousands each year and created a new College tradition that helps seniors reflect on who helped shape their time at the College. These are just a few in a long list of accomplishments made under the leadership of SGA and CC. While these governing bodies are not without imperfections, they have still contributed to the betterment of the College while working to improve their functioning.

Because of the time we spent as leaders of the SGA and CC, we are acutely aware of the merits and disadvantages of the organization of Wooster’s two elected governance organizations. We do recognize and encourage reform of the two governing bodies to ensure that the voices of the campus constituencies are heard and translated into action. Further, we respect and appreciate the motivation of the committee to improve Wooster. However, the proposed reform does not take mind of the significant time, effort and care necessary to successfully improve governance at the College of Wooster. Finally, considering the myriad new issues Wooster will have to face in light of COVID-19, we believe that the Wooster community will be best served by the established leadership of CC and the SGA unburdened by the need to rebuild itself from the ground up.

In this spirit, we advance the notion that while continued reform is necessary, reform must be carefully planned and take mind of the work that is necessary to make reform successful. We the former leaders of CC and SGA believe that this plan is not ready for the Board’s seal of approval. Ultimately, the purpose of this letter is not to defend the status quo, but rather to encourage that changes are made with an abundance of caution and care with the aim of building a stronger, more collaborative and more equitable community. We encourage the student leaders of Campus Council and Student Government Association to continue to evaluate where the bodies are ineffective and to work to effect positive change for student governance.

Sincerely, the undersigned

Annabelle Hopkins, Chair of Council 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Monét Davis, President of Student Government Association 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Jordan Griffith, Chair of Council 2017-2018, At-Large Council Member 2016-2018

Jordan Ouellette, Vice President of Student Government Association 2017-2018, Senator 2014- 2017

Jack Johanning, Chair of Council 2016-2017, Vice Chair of Council 2015-2016

Spencer Gilbert, President of Student Government Association 2016-2017, At Large Council Member 2015-2016, Senator 2014-2017

Ben Taylor, Chair of Campus Council 2015-2016

Sayantan Mitra, President of Student Government Association 2015-2016, Vice Chair of Campus Council 2013-2014

Josh Foerst, President of Student Government Association 2014-2015, Senator 2012-2015

Elliot Wainwright, Chair of Council 2014-2015

Molly McCartt, President of Student Government Association 2013-2014

Reagan Kazyak, Student Government Association Vice President 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Robert Dinkins, Vice Chair of Council 2018-2019

Marina Dias Lucena Adams, Vice Chair of Council 2017-2018, International Council Member 2017-2018

Theresa Spadola, Vice Chair of Council 2016-2017, At Large Council Member 2015-2016

Robin Emmons, Selective Organization Council Member 2018-2019

Christian Betre, International Diversity Council Member 2018-2019

Stachal Harris, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2018-2019

Ethan Barham, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2017-2018, Student Government Association Senator 2015-2018

Vrinda Trivedi, Gender and Sexual Diversity Council Member 2017-2018

Aaron Roberson, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2016-2017

Heather Smith, Gender and Sexual Diversity Council Member 2016-2017

Geo Tramonto, Selective Organization Council Member 2015-2016

Matthew Hartzell, At-Large Council Member 2017-2019

Garrett Layde, Senator 2018-2019

Callie Ogland-Hand, Senator 2016-2018

Kenyon Moriarty, Senator 2017-2019

Juwan Shabazz, Senator 2018-2019

Gabe Wasylko, Senator 2018-2019

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *