In lieu of yesterday’s Campus endorsement of Caroline Walters ‘16.5 for SGA President, Taylor Custer, present SGA President and graduating senior wrote in with some personal reflections on the circumstance.
At middbeat, we thrive to create an inclusive, pulsing campus conversation on all issues, thus we are dedicated to considering and sharing all perspectives. Taylor’s reflection is not a reflection of the middbeat editorial staff’s personal opinions, but rather a platform for campus-wide critical thinking – so please share your thoughts below Taylor’s piece:
In Thursday morning’s issue of The Campus, the editorial board endorsed Caroline Walters for SGA President and Durga Jayaraman for Student Co-Chair of Community Council. Rather than providing any substantive discussion of the full slate of candidates or their platforms, however, the editorial board instead devoted the majority of its editorial to criticizing the current SGA for its “lack of leadership and results this year.” As the President of the SGA, I felt it important to offer the student body an alternative view of the SGA’s performance this year. If anyone would like to respond or ask questions, please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]:
Decide for Yourself
With less than a month left in the academic year, it seems that The Campus editorial board finally realized it has yet to take a firm, controversial position on any important issues related to student life this year. In this week’s issue, however, it decided to break the streak by endorsing Caroline Walters for SGA President. I have no issues with Caroline. I have met her once or twice, and she seems convivial and civic-minded. She is undeniably an SGA outsider. In fact, The Campus editorial board does her an injustice when it states that she has “attended a number of meetings in person;” she has attended exactly one. The editorial board also informs us that Caroline has “read the minutes for every meeting this year.” I believe Caroline. It seems like a responsible journalist, however, would want to allow the reader to make the call by providing some contextual information. Most of us, I imagine, would probably be hard-pressed to find the time to read the 263 single-spaced pages that constitute this year’s minutes.
So, why Caroline? As the only candidate with no SGA experience, she is apparently the only one who can be trusted to remedy the institution’s “lack of leadership and results.” The SGA, after all, has done nothing of value this year. We did not spend hours negotiating with administrators to ensure another tailgating scenario does not recur for a more important issue. We did not boost the number of MiddCourses reviews from under 700 to over 4,200. We did not allocate $40,000 to ensure the Ian Burgin Lodge is built. We did not hold “frequent and flexible office hours” all year. We did not run a major campus-life survey in which 60% of the student body participated. We did not create a framework to ensure that students can voice their concerns about tuition increases and have them answered.(1) We did not pass what Maddie Orcutt, an activist and Truman Scholar, says is “one of the most progressive acts on sexual respect by any student government association.”(2) And no, we did not spend the past year and a half closely examining the Honor Code to propose amendments that may breathe some life back into it.
The SGA, of course, is far from perfect. We need to do a better job listening to and advocating on behalf of students. But, then again, we all make mistakes. I wasted hours in town trying to convince restaurants to provide students with a one-week, 20% discount to increase our social options on the weekends. The Campus editorial board wasted valuable front-page real-estate on an unscientific Facebook poll about the new logo in January. I did not realize that students love free coffee and cookies until two weeks ago. The Campus editorial board did not realize it might be useful to address a controversial issue in an editorial until this past Sunday.
In the absence of any print competition, we as a student body must hold our paper to a higher standard.(3) If it prints inaccurate information or poorly argued editorials, then we should not be afraid to call it out. I did it once before when it bungled its coverage of the SGA’s proposed Honor Code amendments. I feel compelled to do so again now. As was said, the editorial board noted its dismay with the SGA’s “lack of leadership and results this year.” Well, in the student life survey we asked you about our job performance:
Facts, it is often said, are stubborn things. While far from a ringing endorsement of the SGA, the above table offers no support for the editorial board’s harsh criticism. The SGA’s unforgivable sin, the one that I have tried and regrettably failed to remedy, is not that we are incapable of creating positive change, but rather that we do a poor job communicating with the rest of the student body.
It is one thing to write about change, another to effect it. Until today, The Campus editorial board was content to do the former without criticizing those doing the latter. It now wants to point out where the doers of deeds could have done them better, without lifting a finger to offer any assistance.(4) Criticism is easy, and change is hard. Given that the editorial board has not done anything this year to effect real change at Middlebury, you should not let its opinion unfairly influence your view of the SGA or the candidates. Talk to them all, read their platforms, evaluate the evidence, and decide for yourself.
(1) Thank you, Senator Berlowitz.
(2) Thank you, Senator Berlowitz, Senator Edwards, and the other activists who helped author the bill.
(3) Middbeat, I think we would all agree, reigns supreme in terms of web-based coverage. (Not a Middbeat-motivated endorsement)
(4) I hope everyone catches the Teddy Roosevelt reference; if you do not, then you should go read his “Citizenship In A Republic” speech right now. And no, I don’t mean just me. Ask anyone involved in SGA, MiddIncluded, or the Divestment movement. Alternatively, you could also ask the many organization leaders and sports captains as well.