After The Town Hall: Now What?
story | Kan Ren Jie, Staff Writer
photo | Aditya Karkera
Coming from a school where students never had much of a stake in its management, I found last week’s Town Hall an extraordinary experience. I cherish the opportunity to be part a student body that is deeply concerned about our College, and willing to engage in civil conversation with the administration. However, as I left the Town Hall, I started to wonder whether anything had changed. Though the Town Hall has brought to light the concerns of the student body; will we have the momentum to follow through with concrete changes?
As we move forward, the student body may face the obstacle of apathy. Past events, such as the most recent Student Government by-election and the elections before that, demonstrate a persistent struggle to increase student involvement in governmental affairs. While the Town Hall was an encouraging sign of civic participation, this problem of apathy will probably not go away overnight.
I must confess that I myself am guilty of apathy: indeed, as I buried myself in my usual commitments in the days after the Town Hall, what struck me was an extraordinary sense of ‘sameness’ in the school. The highly charged atmosphere of indignation and frustration was replaced by one that was placid and perhaps a tad bit too complacent. I fear that we have come to view the Town Hall as the resolution of all our differences. However, as an email from the Student Government aptly stated, the Town Hall is only the “start of a conversation”. If we view it as the end of a saga, or record it down in the history books as a monumental event, we attach to the Town Hall a dangerous sense of closure. By doing so, we ignore the fact that much effort is still required to turn the ideas so passionately expressed into reality.
The Student Government has got down to work on various “Deliverables” and “Action Items”. According to their email, they will establish more opportunities for students to meet with the administration, and various student committees will continue to work with the Dean of Students’ office and senior administration on issues like the event booking policy, graduation, and mental health. As I read through these action items, what struck me was how seemingly mundane they were. While greatly significant, the way forward will nonetheless be filled with “regular meetings”, “clarifications” and the “editing” and “collation” of documents. This grunt work will be left to the Student Government by those of us who are unobservant or uninvolved.
Much work is still left for all of us. Whether or not we have a role in the Student Government, the Town Hall should not be diminished as a feel-good kumbayah event. Rather, it was a clarion call: a call to see the value of being engaged, no matter how unexciting the tasks at hand can be, given that school policies can evidently have an impact on our personal interests and values. Additionally, the Town Hall demonstrates that we all have the ability to continue to shape the level of discourse in the school community into one that is civil, yet incredibly effective.
Even when the hype of the Town Hall has faded, it remains incredibly important for us to be conscious of the efforts that we will be taking, and to contribute to the College in whatever ways we can. Get to know members of the administration, attend Town Halls regularly, or at the very least read the weekly student government emails. If there is a need for another series of high-profile incidents in order for us to react with another well-attended Town Hall on a rainy Wednesday night, then clearly, we have not learnt the lessons of the first.
The views expressed here are the author’s own. The Octant welcomes all voices in the community. Email submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org