(Editor’s Note: Even though we have no interest in becoming the middle man for any sort of back-and-forth between, well, anyone, we thought it only appropriate that we give SGA President Addison Bennett ’16 and a chance to respond to some of the points and concerns raised in a recent op-ed by a guest writer. We hope this provides more insight into the larger issue.)
On the first day of classes this semester, I sent out SGA’s Strategic Action Plan for the year, which contained our entire agenda on issues ranging from event planning to sexual assault prevention to raising the student minimum wage. It’s not wrong to say that we are one of the most powerful student governments around, and this year we are committed to taking that power and using it to work for a better Skidmore. Every single student received this agenda along with an invitation to participate with us this year, and to help us make our vision for student leadership a reality. The action agenda will remain posted on the SGA website all year (at this link: http://www.skidmore.edu/sga/senate/SGAActionAgenda.pdf). Read it and let us know what you think. This year we are making a concerted effort to reach out. We are a new group of leaders with a fresh set of priorities, and we have heard you.
In the past few months and years, we’ve taken steps to be more intentional about how we gather feedback from students. We’ve recognized that we aren’t perfect – the point of student leadership is learning on the job. Speaking for myself, I am willing to make mistakes, knowing that the work I put in for the students is worth it, even if it’s not appreciated. Along these lines, we’ve implemented a student comment box, which anyone may submit to. It’s available here: http://www.skidmore.edu/sga/. Within the next month, we’re also going to be rolling out student opinion polling and launching an inclusion task force, and each has the goal of bringing in more voices and making sure we make decisions with our constituents in mind.
SGA does more than talk. We fund SCEMS, operate over 120 clubs, host events like fun day, and work to make sure the administration is actually listening to the student voice. When you’re not looking, this work is happening all year, led by a group of dozens of committed students, your classmates, who have decided to spend their time and energy to make Skidmore as great as we know it can be.
But clearly that’s not enough. I know we work hard, and I know we are capable leaders. More than that, I know that we make a difference, both in our leadership and our power of the purse.
I want to invite you to engage with us more fully. If you’re not happy, don’t sit back. If this response does nothing else, I hope it helps you realize that we take feedback seriously. The first thing you can do is come to the State of the College Address tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 in Zankel, where we are going to be talking about how can make Skidmore better, together. If you are going to complain, that’s fine. Dissent is good, and it makes us stronger as a community. However, when you are going to challenge us, be informed. Know what we’re doing as students to help our friends have a better experience here. At the State of the College, I want you to be engaged, to ask questions, and to know what our vision is. Do more than that; challenge us and make sure we are actually following through. In addition, help us craft our vision together. The reason we care about raising the minimum wage, combatting sexual assault, or expanding opportunities to people on campus, regardless of socioeconomic status is because you do.
Now to the points on the advertising of the budget. Personal information is contained in the budget. It contains at least one salary, information we cannot ethically distribute, and frankly, too much information to be simply distributed without any context. However, anyone with a question about the budget is always welcome to come to Sam Harris, Kris Scully, or me to ask about specific provisions of the budget. We do this to protect student and staff information and to follow laws regulating privacy. Still, we want to be open with you, and if you have questions, reach out and we will answer everything we are legally able to.
So, read our action agenda. Send me an email. Come to SGA Senate meetings, which are open every Tuesday at 8pm in Ladd 307. Also, read our emails, since they often do contain the information you’re asking for. Your feedback is taken seriously, and I promise you that this year will be different. Above all, remember that we are all students together. There’s no Us vs. Them going on here; let us help you, and let us represent what you want. We can do that.
Addison Bennett ’16