Latest posts by The Octant (see all)
- You Cannot Do It (All) - October 24, 2017
- Yale-NUS Student Government Elections: Why the apathy? - March 8, 2016
- What is Our Time Here For?: The meaning of Yale-NUS College and the liberal arts - March 8, 2016
Guest columnist || Jay Lusk
Illustration from Wikimedia Commons
In the column next to this, you have seen some arguments against the formation of a student government using the current process created by the Elected Student Committee (ESC). I want to do two things in this article: 1) explain why we need a student government as a concept, and 2) articulate why this current process is the best practical solution to the challenges faced by this college.
First, I doubt anyone would dispute that we have legitimate conflict both between groups of students and between students and administrative offices. The conflict YIRPA has had with the Dean of Students’ Office, or the curriculum-related struggles all students—particularly sophomores— have undergone, or the debate over freedom of expression on confessions and elsewhere, clearly evidence the need for a unified student voice. We need a way to exert our collective influence over this college in making sure the administration is cognizant of our needs and desires. The status quo of having individual students march down to the Dean of Students (DOS) or the President’s Office does not provide the administration with enough information about student opinion on a broad level, nor does it ensure that all voices are represented. A student government is not a hyper-politicized, hierarchical body that enforces its will upon the population; rather, it is a channel for recognition of student concerns and conflict resolution. It is a starting point from which we can balance immediate needs and recognize long-term changes in the school culture.
Now, to the major point of contention between my article and the opposing opinion: why should you approve this process and ratify this constitution, with a sunset clause? When you vote on the question of ratifying the constitution, you will be given two choices:
1) You can vote “No,” causing several things to happen. Anne Caroline Franklin, speaking for the ESC, states that, “Whether or not we ratify this constitution, the ESC will step down at the end of this semester and will stop having any jurisdiction over this process. From the ESC’s perspective, there is no ‘Plan B’ to ratification.” This means that we will not have a true student government to represent to prospective first years, or to help review the common curriculum, or to provide feedback on majors to the faculty, or to facilitate the move to the new campus, ad. infinitum. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, Dean Farley has indicated that if we do not ratify the constitution, his office is considering, “… appointing selected students to serve in leadership positions and College committees.” This means that students will be making important decisions, but they will not necessarily be representative of our student body. Alternatively, we could end up with a brand-new, made-from-scratch, ESC-like structure, which is basically a student government with all the drawbacks and none of the benefits — it would be more hasty and more rushed than the student body’s current constitutional proposal, and it would be less conducive to long-term growth and less able to deal with the concerns of our student body than the structure proposed by the constitution.
2) You can choose to make sure our collective voices are heard by voting “Yes, with a sunset clause” on the constitution, giving your consent for the student government to be formed in the method dictated by the student-voted surveys. Most importantly, the entire constitution will be re-visited next year after an initial trial period. The opposing side advocates that you vote “no,” because they feels that it is better to start this process over with much more (several years) extended timeframe, using intermediaries such as an updated version of the ESC, formed as an “organic” process to reach the formation of a government. The co-signers of this article and I argue that it is better to have a government formed with the intention of creating a long-term framework. I do not believe that this constitution ignores the concerns of classes to follow: we believe that a system has been identified that will make sure all views are represented. The compromise option, based in reality, is this option. Voting “Yes, with a sunset clause” allows our voice to be represented, ensures that we have a real, effective, functioning student government to help us through the transition to year three, and mandates we also have a system ready for slight tweaks or heavy reworking.
Overall, I think that the process that has happened to reach this point has not been perfect: there has been a lot of expected apathy. However, I believe trying to start over or draw out this process more is worse than taking concrete action now. Starting over is going to exacerbate apathy, not fix the problem. Do your part for the community, and make your voice heard. Vote “Yes,” and ensure our voices are represented today and into the future.
At the time of publication, 58 students have signed this article. The list of names are below.
Yee Jia Rong
Heng Yeng Tan
Chua Yao Hui
Shanice NIcole Stanislaus
Maria Camila Posse
Ong Chee Yeow
Anne Caroline Franklin
Lek Hao Kai
Hunter P. Deerfield Cuming Shaw
Teo Xiao Ting
Lim Se Ern