By Ian Hill '17, CORe Representative
At the beginning of my first year at Olin, I ran for one of the two student government positions available to my class. I wanted to solve problems for my classmates by networking with the administration and, as a newcomer to the Olin bubble, I wanted to understand how the whole system worked. One of my classmates, Aditi, and I won the election and became our class's representatives to the Council of Olin Representatives, known around here as CORe.
It has been an adventure since then. During my first year, I sat on the board which approves Passionate Pursuits and served as the CORe's budget officer. I created a map in my head of the college's administration so that if anyone had a problem to solve, I would know who to talk to. But most importantly, I realized that I could learn the most just by listening. As in any college, people share their excitements and complaints around the dinner table and in dorm lounges. I began to take note of any Olin-related complaints I hear because every frustration or "I wish" is an opportunity to improve something about the school.
This year has been an adventure of an entirely different kind. Once I knew how the system worked, I began to identify places where it could be improved. But I was not the only one. Many members of the student government had their own lists of changes they wanted to see implemented. All of this came to a head early this year, and we decided to review the governing documents of CORe and the major organizations on campus. We quickly realized that, while the student government functioned to the satisfaction of most students, the governing documents were outdated and in disrepair. Once we realized how extensive the problem was, we decided to begin discussions about restructuring the student government.
First, we went back to the basics. We asked, "What should a student government do at a college?" We brainstormed within CORe, and we bounced ideas off other student leaders in order to understand what would work well for them. After a great deal of discussion, we began to talk concretely about what next year would look like. As one who was particularly interested in the process, I worked on a team to develop a proposal which would outline a new student government. After a while, I began to take on the role of proposal-maker. In true Olin fashion, we went through many iterations before we settled on a plan which satisfied every stakeholder. At each iteration, we would talk, and I would codify the conclusions of each discussion into a new draft proposal.
At the end of winter break, the dust began to settle. We had finally found a plan which made everyone happy. The plan more clearly defines the roles of each elected official and details proper procedure for each major function of a new student government. It creates specialized representatives who will meet with various college departments to establish a lasting link with the administration. It also strives to increase transparency and communication in all aspects of student government including publicizing information about the Student Activities Fund to which each student contributes annually.
We designed it such that, to the average Oliner, not much would change. Every major organization we have come to know and rely upon would exist and continue to provide opportunities of all types to the student body. What changes are the governing documents and the internal structure of those major organizations and the student government. I believe that the change in internal structure will allow our student government to be more communicative, organized, and a more powerful tool for change on behalf of the student body.
As of this writing, our proposal has been published and we are in the middle of a series of community discussions to get feedback from the student body.
I hope that the restructuring process itself will increase involvement in and understanding of our student government as we hold more all-school discussions and re-stablish lines of communication to and from CORe. It will, no doubt, take time, but I look forward to the day when students, staff, and faculty see our student government as an epicenter of innovation and change at Olin.