In the summer of 2011, Carlton Smith ’15 and Christopher Johnson ’15 both attended the “Preparing for Life as a University Student” program before beginning their careers as freshmen at the College of William and Mary. The program, an initiative of the Center for Student Diversity, allows rising freshmen at the College to live on campus for a week and attend mock lectures. Smith and Johnson lived on opposite ends of their hall and struck up a fast friendship. Now, the two are on the campaign trail to become the next Student Assembly president and vice president.
Smith —who has served as the Vice President of Advocacy for the Class of 2015 for the past three years — spent much of the earlier part of this semester deliberating on whether he should run. When he decided to enter the race, Smith immediately asked Johnson if he would be his running mate, not expecting his friend to agree. Johnson, however, said he had wanted to run as well. Johnson has not been involved in the SA, but has served as the vice president of the Black Student Association and is involved with the Honor Council.
“I wanted to do more to help each and every student on this campus,” Smith said. “We know we are definitely going to fight for each student.”
The duo is running with the slogan “Fighting for change, one student at a time.” Smith came up with this tagline based on the different ideas the pair has in their platform, as well as the wide range of students they are targeting.
Smith and Johnson would like to increase the number of Blue Light Emergency Call Boxes. at the College and increase upkeep on the ones already on campus, noting that last year some continuously beeped, flashed, or otherwise malfunctioned. Smith said he would also like to implement an extended orientation session run by the College’s police department, informing students of the services they offer.
Another issue Smith would like to tackle is students’ mental health. Life at the College can be stressful, he said, and some students need to take time off for physical or mental reasons. However, Smith and Johnson want to ensure that students are never prevented from returning once they take time off and seek treatment.
Smith and Johnson would like to work with the Counseling Center to have students readmitted and attend therapy for several months after they return before resuming their classes.
“We want students who want to be here to be able to come back when things like this happen,” Smith said.
Smith and Johnson also have new ideas for campus dining. They would like to see the entire dining program become self-operating, as opposed to contracted out to a corporation like Sodexo or Aramark. Johnson, who served for two years on the Food Service Advisory Committee, explained that the quality of food under a self-operating service, such as the one at Christopher Newport University, is far superior to the fare of a food provider. He said he believes that the food services should operate to provide students with the best food, not to make a profit.
“If [Christopher Newport University] is able to do it [for] the size of their student body, [which is] comparable to us, we should be able to do the same thing,” Johnson said. “The choice to make it better for students in the long run is becoming self-op[erating]. I want to know what’s stopping us.”
The two said they would also like to increase the transparency of campus organizations. Smith and Johnson said they feel that many organizations operate behind closed doors, and students only find out what is going on when they check the Student Happenings emails. To avoid this problem, Smith and Johnson would like to send out a monthly email detailing the goings-on of the Student Assembly.
Other changes the pair want to make on campus include increasing Earl Gregg Swem Library’s hours during the midterm week before spring break, adding more vehicles to the Zipcar program, and expanding the minority voice on campus by inviting more speakers like the Dalai Lama, Maya Angelou and Prince Turki Al-Faisal.
Although they have numerous goals, Smith and Johnson said they are confident they can make the changes they wish to see. The two said they hope to implement changes that will resonate even after they have graduated.
“We’re certain that we can accomplish all this and at least set up the stones for our successors to take over and make sure our dreams become reality,” Smith said.