For those of you who are incoming freshmen, you have chosen to enter the College of William and Mary as your Student Assembly has entered into a new era. For better or worse, you will never experience the code-based governance of Walter McClean ’09 and Matt Beato ’09 or Zach Pilchen’s ’09 and Valerie Hopkins’s ’09 two-year presidency that attempted to reinvigorate student interest in both the College and Williamsburg.
You can read Hopkins’s letter to the editor telling students not to take a back seat to Williamsburg residents. Her anger can be felt through the page because she witnessed Pilchen lobby the Williamsburg registrar to allow the seemingly transient student population of Williamsburg to have a role in local politics. But what does this all mean?
It means that when the SA meets tonight at 7 p.m. in Tyler 301 they will be without the people who attempted to revolutionize student government at the College for the past four years. It means that now when the SA does voter registration drives, none of the volunteers will have known a Williamsburg that prevented students from registering to vote.
If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it is. Without the previously mentioned student politicians, the SA could easily fade back into the obscurity it once existed in. Even a cursory glance at the bills on the agenda for this evening can tell you a lot about the shadow that the SA will govern in this year.
Senate Chairman Ben Brown ’11 will present a bill tonight proposing to print 6,000 cards detailing student rights in the case of an honor code violation and a student conduct code violation. In past years, the SA printed cards in an effort to educate students in interactions with a resident assistant or a police officer and — though I hate to sound sentimental — the new cards will certainly not have the impact of their predecessors.
The original cards were handy and even subversive. If you heard the knock of an authority figure, a quick look at your know-your-rights card could quickly inform you that under no circumstance can an RA enter your room without your permission — useful information when your RA is demanding entrance and assuming you don’t know the rules. There is no information on the new card that will help you get out of a jam — it’s really just a summary of information in the student handbook. They’ve got the form and color scheme of the old cards, but none of the substance.
Brown will sponsor two more bills in an attempt to solidify his position as the new SA king of code. A 54-page bill rewrites the entire SA Code and another amends the SA Elections Code. If the first bill is passed — and I’m guaranteeing that it will — as a student you probably won’t even notice, but that’s not the point.
The point is that Brown is now trying to position himself as the go-to guy in terms of procedure, so when he graduates, someone else will have to learn his code, and someone else will have to write an opinion column about how the SA is doomed to fail without him. Even though one can only gain so much authority from amending code, this is still a power play of the highest regard.
Brown knows that the SA has lost the people that initially attracted him to student government at the College. He also knows that in order to have any sort of impact on campus, students must be able to connect a face and a name and a purpose to their SA.
Amending code is a sure-fire way to get the attention of other student politicians, but if Brown, or anyone else, wants the approval of the rest of us, then more must surely be done. Free printing? Public bikes? Could you just tell dining services that they can’t put a slider on a big bun and call it a burger? Actually, could we just get that ping-pong ball dispenser that was supposed to be here in December?
E-mail Russ Zerbo at firstname.lastname@example.org.