It seems as though the Student Assembly is preparing to mobilize in support of a student candidate for the Williamsburg City Council election in 2012. Former Student Assembly Public Affairs Secretary Carlos Quintela told the Flat Hat, “Obviously it’s to the benefit of students to have students run for city offices.”(“Student candidacy for Williamsburg likely,” Oct. 4, 2011) But is it obvious?
The council is a body that deals with everything from small-scale, menial issues to broader ones like setting water tax rates. Council meetings are held at 2 p.m. on Thursdays, in the middle of the school day. On the council’s website, they show their support for the creation of the Integrated Science Center and renovations to Tyler Hall. On the council’s long list of legislative priorities, this is the only one that concerns the College of William and Mary directly. Among other topics to be discussed at the Oct. 13 council meeting are the issues of dog tag issuances and real property tax deferral for the elderly and disabled. What’s truly obvious is that these are not issues that weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of students at the College. For these reasons, the council is not where our politically ambitious students should be directing their efforts to affect
Granted, students make up over half of the City of Williamsburg population. In terms of numbers, having another student elected to the council would not constitute an overrepresentation of students. Scott Foster ’10 is a semi-student council member, as an alumnus of the School of Arts and Sciences and a student at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law. If the hypothetical student campaign is successful in May 2012, that makes only two out of five seats on the Council student-held, hardly a majority. It is plainly false to claim that students at the College are as invested in Williamsburg politics as non-student residents.
I don’t mean to discourage anyone who is gung-ho about Williamsburg politics, but the fact of the matter is that most students at the College are not taxpayers. Most are not permanent residents or business owners.
Most spend their allotted four years here and then promptly leave. These are not the people, then, who should be casting votes that overwhelm the voices of permanent residents of the Williamsburg. The College ensures that the students’ needs are met and that their basic rights are protected. Beyond that, established organizations like the SA exist to give a voice to students in governing matters that impact them. The SA should perhaps work to maximize its influence on campus before it seeks to expand political power beyond the boundaries of the College. I believe that the students at the College would find their time better spent if they channeled their political activism into the College system itself, as opposed to the city of Williamsburg.