This article is part of the Review’s Student Senate column. In an effort to increase communication and transparency, Student Senators will provide personal perspectives on recent events on campus and in the community.
This week at my hall meeting, my RA asked what mattered to us. My response was, “Change, and the ability of people to make change together.”
I’m currently a member of Oberlin’s interim Student Senate. As I shared during my hall meeting, I thought about how collaboration is an integral part of Senate’s work. As Vice Chair, I spent the past two semesters learning about Oberlin through my work, and I want to share reflections with you from my first term on Senate. Collective change is not explicitly in Senate’s by-laws, but it is a fundamental principle of our unwritten mission and what makes us effective. And while it’s true that one person can change the world, institutional change often needs a wide support network.
Working collaboratively, strategically, and intentionally as a political body has given Senate new agency. Senators may disagree, but our ability to debate, delegate, and solve problems with different approaches makes us successful. Some of those recent successes include the establishment of the bystander intervention program, the creation of a program to provide break meals, and a task force of senators and trustees to explore student representation on Oberlin’s board. Some conversations may be more difficult than others, but we function because we continue to work together and support each other after difficult discussions and decisions.
Last spring, the protests demanding student representation on the Board of Trustees took preparation from all 15 members of Senate and the labor of dedicated students without titles.
Senate will continue to demand transparent communication from the administration. We will continue to ask for clear messaging and respectful forms of communication when changes are made. A three-line email to the student body regarding a policy change is far from respectful or transparent.
This year, Senate will remain a staunch supporter of increasing student voice in strategic decision making. We have put forth a proposal for student inclusion in budgeting and continue to be champions of student representation on the Board of Trustees. We know collaboration must be at the forefront of our organization and that, with every senator committed, change is possible.
Oberlin is at a turning point. We are welcoming President Ambar to campus, we’re one year into a controversial strategic plan, and our finances are not balanced. All of this means that our work this semester is crucial, and the way we work together is paramount to our success.
The first opportunity for collaboration and student input is through our September election. This fall, seven Senate seats are open. Our last election saw both a record number of candidates and a record voting turnout from students. We should maintain that vigor and excitement, and vote in seven senators who are passionate and ready to collaborate to fulfill the mandate presented by the student body.
Senate is thrilled at the possibility of working together with students to effect change, but we are only 15 members of a student body of 3,000. Our work is more effective when you get involved. It’s powerful when 15 people stand in solidarity, but more impactful when 1,500 gather together.
We are capable of so much more when we come together. We are capable of making positive changes and resisting those changes that are detrimental to our institution. Let’s make this a year of effective collaboration between students, Senate, and the greater Oberlin community.