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Campus News

Co-Convener resigns, group conflicted about role on campus

Dear fellow Caucus Members,

I am writing to you to announce that I will be resigning my position as Co-Convener at the end of this semester (December 17th). When we run elections for the next semester, voters will elect two Co-conveners rather than a single one to year-long terms (Spring 2011 to Spring 2012).

I have not come to this decision with ease or without a great deal of deliberation. My decision was provoked by a discussion that we Co-Conveners had with Lacey Cunningham on Nov. 4th. At that meeting, the idea that Student Caucus does not adequately or accurately represent the opinion of the student body was suggested. To my surprise and disappointment, I was the only one in the room that attempted to refute this statement. Everyone else agreed with it.

It has become apparent that my fellow Co-Conveners and I disagree on this most basic of principles: that the Student Caucus of Warren Wilson College, as it exists now, reflects and represents the collective will of the Student Body of Warren Wilson College. There are certainly deficiencies in the system; students from some demographics do not exercise their voice in governance at Caucus on a regular basis. But it is my opinion with a student body of ~930, the 48 members of Caucus represent a statistically significant sample of the student body, and that at least 90% of their concerns are 90% of the concerns of the students body at-large.

Moreover, I do not believe that there exists a fundamental flaw in the way Caucus is currently structured that acts as an impediment to student participation. The structure of Caucus asks only one thing of its members in order to have a voice in governance: show up to Caucus. We cannot, in my opinion, pander to groups apathetic to governance. We, however, can make positive changes: getting a dedicated time, for instance, would be a major step. But we also must recognize that we have made progress. The Caucus as it stands now is much larger than the Caucus of last year, and larger still than the Caucuses of previous years. I believe that the Caucus could eventually break 100 voting members without altering a single facet of its formal structure.

In discussion with my fellow Co-Conveners, it has become apparent to me that they value student participation, but do not view Caucus as being the best system for that. The only reason I started attending Caucus, the only reason I ran for Co-Convener, was that our system is the most open and inclusive system of student governance that I have encountered. Caucus members do not earn their spots in popularity elections and Co-Conveners are not drawn from the ranks of the socially elite. We ask Caucus members to perform the tasks that elected representatives would do at any other school without thanks or any formal rewarding. And the result is that we have a Student Government membership equivalent to schools twice our size. I view that as something to be proud of. Others disagree.

Like every Wilson student, I spend 15 hours a week at my job. However, 14 of those hours feel like tremendous burdens, and indeed, I have often spent a lot of that time in argument with my fellow Co-Conveners about the Caucus. That one hour in Caucus has always been redeeming, but it had previously been guaranteed by the belief that we were fighting to improve Caucus in order to ensure its longevity. I am no longer guaranteed that as being the case. Moreover, I feel that without a strong belief in the ability of Caucus to effectively present the views of the Students undermines Caucus’ place in our governance structure. Without the personal conviction that my actions contribute to the preservation of a direct democracy system for students at Wilson, I have a hard time justifying that sort of exhausting work, especially not as I go into my final semester of college. In short, I am after a basic, selfish need, but a uniquely Warren Wilson one: wellness (and not the substance-fr
ee kind, the spiritual well-being kind). It is not something I believe I can find while still a Co-Convener.

Obviously, I could speak of this at length (and already have). However, my mind is pretty strongly made up now, and Caucus has a lot on its plate, so we will not discuss this at tomorrow’s meeting. Anyone who wishes to talk with me about it is free to do so outside of Caucus.

And in case anyone’s worried, I’m not walking away from Caucus. I’ll still be there next semester, as an active and engaged voting member.

Cheers,
Alexander Gifford Howard

Alexander Gifford Howard
Student Caucus Co-Convener
(401) 215-3425
CPO #7558

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