Our guest blogger today is Charles Arnowitz ’13, who I have the pleasure of working with in his role as the president of the SGA. —Shirley M. Collado
As Student Government Association president this year, I’ve dealt with campus issues that run the gamut—from student programming to funding to college governance to communications to the most mundane elements of student life. Across these diverse issue areas, I’ve found that one theme predominates: the need for student engagement with Middlebury as an institution.
Our campus is full of potential leaders and creative thinkers. I know. I’ve worked at the Admissions Office for four years and have observed for myself the new additions to the student body; moreover, I engage on a daily basis with friends and peers who rarely cease to amaze me. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of being a student at Middlebury is how much I learn from those peers and how much my friends surprise and impress me.
Nonetheless, despite the quantity and quality of potential leaders here at Midd, our campus suffers from a lack of student engagement with institutional policy. In fairness, students are busy—we have challenging academics, usually a few extracurricular activities or a sport schedule to navigate, and social obligations as well. This is part of the lifestyle we choose when we choose Middlebury, and most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.
But while I know most of us are proud and grateful to spend four years here, few of us are fully satisfied with Middlebury institutionally—whether it is social life, endowment policy, academic policy, or anything in between, many students feel there are areas where Middlebury could improve.
To those students, I say: On a campus as small and as codependent as ours, engagement really matters. Pushing through the relevant institutional channels (and, occasionally, outside of those channels), individuals can have a lasting impact on College policy or student life. Our carbon neutrality initiative, Alcohol and Social Life Task Force, Middview, the new Pass-Fail option, and others are the products of student engagement with the institution. And yet, when the dean of the College announces a meeting to talk about alcohol use on campus, just 20 students show up. When the SGA has a meeting on something controversial that touches on all of our lives, only a handful of students will attend.
The administration and the Board of Trustees are not the enemy of student welfare—not only do they want student input, they often beg for it. Being busy is legitimate, but we all abdicate the right to complain when we don’t attempt to make our voices heard.
In conclusion, I encourage students to engage more actively with institutional policy by attending open meetings, providing feedback when requested, and making student viewpoints clear. We all have opinions on the issues that Old Chapel deals with. Sometimes, there will be student consensus around an issue; other times, a split will exist. But no one with power to change policy can act on our views if they don’t know they exist.
There are open SGA Senate meetings on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. and open Community Council meetings on Mondays at 4:30. The Office of the Dean of the College, Community Council, and the SGA will be pioneering a new Campus Forum event in an effort to encourage student input. We would love to hear from you.
—Charles Arnowitz ’13