Retiring Student Senator Offers Advice

Aaron Appel, College senior

To the Editors:

Welcome/welcome back, Obies! Hope you’re getting (back) into the swing of things. I’m Aaron (or Appel), and since last fall, I’ve been one of your student senators. Before I start rambling about Senate, I want to say that I’m not speaking on behalf of the group itself, but just telling you how I feel — after all, by the end of the month, I’ll be retired anyway.

I’m writing here in the hopes of convincing you to run for Student Senate by giving you my two cents about the job. As a bit of background, senators have an array of responsibilities. Aside from weekly plenaries and office hours, we each hold one or more office positions. These include running outreach to students, planning events, liaising with the city of Oberlin and much more. One critical thing we do is serve on and appoint students to the multitude of General Faculty, Arts and Sciences, Conservatory and entirely student-run committees at Oberlin. Students can make some of their greatest impacts in this place by serving on committees and formulating their policies. If that interests you, email us ([email protected]) to learn more! We also run a number of working groups, which don’t require an official appointment. You just say, “I think this sounds interesting. Let me join,” and you’re in. There are a number of issues we deal with, such as student health and sustainable transportation, so visit our website to learn more and email us with your interest.

The biggest thing I want to share though — and, speaking from personal experience, often the hardest to grasp — is that on Senate you have to be a representative of the Oberlin student body. You need to advocate for students and work hard to make sure that everybody in our community (not necessarily just the College!) shares an equitable space at the decision-making table. So, here’s what I’m hoping from you: I hope you (as the collective group of students intending on running) are motivated, compassionate (be it for general humanity or the specific communities you love and identify with) and representative of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. I also hope you can resolve your conflicts through careful dialogue. Finally, I hope you don’t just want something “impressive” on your résumé, because those who are not truly interested in doing this for any reason other than the title will not enjoy their experience, much less be a representative in any sense of the word.

Of course, this is by no means meant to dissuade new Obies or those unsure of where their passions lie here from running and/or participating in student government, because ultimately the experience can be incredibly rewarding. If you’ve got an open mind for different perspectives, regardless of your own background, if you’re willing to be challenged by others and if you look for and foster this dynamic as soon as you first take your seats, Senate will be awesome this year. Above all, Senate will be as safe for everyone as it can be.

I hope some of you take to heart what I’ve said. It might seem like I’m taking this too seriously (and if you know me in person, that might be surprising), but there’s a large degree of institutional power that a united and hard-working Senate can wield. And I want to emphasize that this power should be used to make this school more safe and accessible for everyone. At the end of the day, Oberlin is a microcosm of the world outside, and a place where we can re-evaluate what good government means.