Student Assembly to restructure internal operations

by Emily Rutherford | 11/10/13 5:31pm

The outgoing student body leadership provided little in the way of transitional exercises or relevant institutional information from the previous Assembly, meaning that student body president Adrian Ferrari ’14, student body vice president Michael Zhu ’14 and their cabinet essentially had to “start from the ground up,” even going to Rauner Special Collections Library to find previous years’ Assembly records, Ferrari said. This lag in turnover is a priority for this year’s leadership, which hopes to transform an organization plagued by internal inefficiencies.

The Assembly has made efforts to renew its commitment to enacting policy changes that will have concrete effects on the student body, as well as efficiently use its preexisting structure and better preserve institutional memory. While the Assembly has yet to change any of the policies outlined in its constitution, last amended in 2010, the 2013-2014 leadership intends to leave behind a better blueprint for future student administrations.

“We came into office with absolutely nothing set up for us in terms of institutional memory or instruction,” Ferrari said.

This year’s cabinet used Assembly archives from the late 1990s and early 2000s, found in the Rauner Special Collections Library, to inform their new record-keeping practices. To prevent confusion in future transitions, each cabinet member and committee chair will create a transition memo for next year’s Assembly members, detailing passwords, logistics and advice for interacting with administrators.

Current projects include an academic affairs committee proposal to make end-of-term course reviews public, as well as a student services committee initiative to investigate ways of cost-sharing for programs that are mainly utilized by graduate students and staff, such as the print newspapers purchased for undergraduates in Collis and Novack.

Additionally, the First-Year Mentorship committee has held study breaks and events at the Hopkins Center’s woodshop and jewelry studio, in an attempt to strengthen the bond between upperclassmen and first-year students.

Chief of staff Gus Ruiz Llopiz ’14 alluded to a new Alcohol and Harm Reduction committee policy that is currently in development, but would not elaborate beyond saying that committee members were meeting with student groups, alumni and the administration to work on the policy. He said the policy will be informed by practices at the College’s peer institutions.

The cabinet is also reorganizing the committee structure. Each committee is now headed by two co-chairs that oversee multiple members, while in previous years, only one chair led each committee and was sometimes that committee’s sole member. The cabinet, made up of executive officers, oversees daily affairs.

Many members also sit on independent student committees, such as the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault. While there is currently no formalized sharing method of information between Student Assembly and these independent committees, Ruiz Llopiz said implementing such a policy could be helpful.

Ferrari said feedback about the new committee structure has been positive, but acknowledged that feedback might include more constructive criticism in end-of-term surveys that members will soon complete.

Both Ferrari and Ruiz Llopiz cited positive relationships with members of the College administration this term. Cabinet members meet with Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson on a monthly basis.

Eric Ramsey, director Collis Center for Student Involvement, said in an email he is impressed with this year’s level of participation and achievements.

The Assembly has yet to update its website beyond publishing photos and short biographies of some of the cabinet members. Ruiz Llopiz attributed the delay to concern with finalizing policy changes.

Although Ferrari acknowledged the student body is not currently in touch with the Assembly, he said he wants to change this by strengthening the Assembly as an institution. Ruiz Llopiz also said it is important to increase transparency with regards to the student body.

“This is our community, and we can’t just talk about it in the abstract,” he said.

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