With the Student Assembly elections approaching, candidates will seek to prove themselves worthy to the student body. They will need to recognize the current and past SA’s successes and shortcomings, both to educate the students they will serve and to improve the next SA. Merely vilifying or praising the SA’s performance will not suffice. The SA has done many things well: maintaining popular services like Tribe Rides, creating widespread diversity initiatives, and connecting with the broader world of higher education and the Virginia state government. But they lack visibility and transparency beyond campaign season.
The amount of information available to regular students makes a difference when it comes time to elect SA members. Students deserve to have general, up to date information about the SA if they are to make good choices during the election and communicate their needs effectively during the year. The SA could create a well designed website, updated with a summary of each meeting, and including a bio for each member. This would increase transparency and provide students with a basic working knowledge of the SA.
The SA also needs to maintain a stronger online presence through Facebook and Twitter. These forums will allow it to communicate information to students while providing informal opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback. Then, regular students and the SA alike can be heard.
One area in which the SA must be commended is in its preservation of popular, useful student services. The massage chairs in Earl Gregg Swem Library are still soothing even the most high-strung TWAMPS. We all appreciate not paying for exam blue books, an unnecessary cost for students elsewhere. Tribe Rides aids many students who would be discouraged from seeking needed mental health care by the stress and financial burden of arranging rides. Candidates should communicate their plans for maintaining these services.
The SA has also strongly promoted diversity. Humans of William and Mary, a SA initiative that has now received more than 3,000 likes on Facebook, presents honest snapshots of students, employees and others, giving us fresh, unique perspectives on everything from studying at the College of William and Mary as an international student to being married. We also eagerly await Maya Angelou, a beloved writer and activist, who, thanks to Alma Mater Productions and the SA, will speak at the College April 15. With equal parts empathy, wisdom and experience, she was a terrific choice.
As representatives of the College’s student body, the SA needs to be active in the broader educational and political community. This month, the SA unanimously passed a letter to the Virginia State Assembly criticizing the Senate’s and House of Delegates’ proposed budgets for not providing enough public education funding. While the SA’s political clout in Richmond is undoubtedly small, we are glad to see they are fighting for us outside of the College.
Candidates must acknowledge the SA’s accomplishments as well as its room for improvement in order to keep students informed and help them make the best voting decisions. But it goes both ways: Students must be willing to learn about the SA and vote.