As a member of the Student Assembly executive for almost two years, I have seen a lot of initiatives fulfilled, as well as a bit of drama and scandal. I also know that members of this SA executive have been more committed to fulfilling student needs and initiatives than many executives from years past. Valerie Hopkins ’09 and Zach Pilchen ’09 have run twice on the promise of making this SA “Your Student Assembly.”
We, as students, have failed them — maybe as much as Pilchen has failed us.
Pilchen certainly disillusioned us with trust and will continue to face consequences for his actions. In no way am I suggesting anything Pilchen did is anything but reprehensible, but he is not the SA, and our immediate concern for the integrity and honesty of the entire SA is almost as reprehensible.
Over 70 percent of students who voted in last spring’s SA presidential election cast a ballot for Hopkins and Pilchen who were running on a slew of beliefs and initiatives from co-educational sexual assault prevention programs for extended orientation to increased efforts to make our campus more environmentally sustainable. We voted based on the assumption that we trusted their treatment of the events surrounding former College President Gene Nichol’s resignation, and their help in moving Steer Clear from Greek life to its own entity. They also made the student voice heard to an unparalleled degree in the city of Williamsburg through voter drives and city council debates on campus.
Hopkins and Pilchen made the SA accessible — they did their best to make it “our” SA. We overwhelmingly neglected our half of the bargain when we failed to become involved with their initiatives, only perking up during scandals or high points of press coverage.
In no way are we meant to pick up the reins of the entire SA — like all things, we pick our causes and we fight for them. We are an exceptionally involved campus, and we voted for Hopkins and Pilchen on the assumption that they could support initiatives near and dear to our hearts — 70 percent of you who decided to vote supported that.
In all honesty, they didn’t fail you.
Pilchen’s actions are inexcusable, but so is our apathy. The SA is play government only as long as we refuse to break in and become energized.
Students, here is your chance — show this amount of concern for free STI testing on campus or make this the year that gender-blind housing finally becomes a reality for this campus. Even if you just register to vote in Williamsburg to show that you want more than three unrelated people to live in a huge rental house somewhere on Griffin Street when you’re inevitably bumped from lottery, you’re stepping up in a way that most of this campus has not.
It’s easy to look back and say what you could have or would have done differently. I’m sure Pilchen is doing that right now. Those who voted this year to make the SA “Your Student Assembly” still have a chance to fulfill their part of the bargain.
People vote for ideas — ideas are flexible, they come from populations, not individuals. You voted for ideas, and your ideas are being heard. Individuals can do wrong, but as long as you still believe in the ideas and goals you voted for, you still have an opportunity to make this SA your SA.
Apathy doesn’t have a monetary value, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as shameful.
Katie Dixon is a senior at the College.