Since coming to Elon University, I have always had a plan. You can read it here. Since joining Student Government this fall, I have developed a plan to enact substantial and effective change for our class and for the institution that we all call home. A plan for me, a plan for our class, and a plan for our institution.
This is my treatise to my fellow 2023 Elonians; as well as the past, present, and future ones too. Here is how I envision growing Elon to better serve every person—no matter the status; student, faculty, support, administration—on Elon’s campus as a representative of the class of 2023 and our collective goal to create a more equitable and safer space for all. Like I said in my speech only five months ago, I intend on the class being dubbed ‘‘the most radical class on campus’’ and that still is the goal. Just so you know, being radical doesn’t exactly ‘‘crazy’’ but instead means ‘‘Relating to or advocating fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions.’’ we’re here to depart from the customary, for the better.
When I first gained my position, I was flabbergasted or as I put it then “totally in shock and [didn’t] expect [it] at all." That’s true, very very true. To be trusted by approximately 40% of students in leading them towards a better space for all was incredibly daunting. Nevertheless, we—as a team—worked towards doing just that. We will continue to do just that. I am incredibly proud of my team this year for their incredible work in pulling off the first phase of my four (really 3 and 3/4ths) year plan for our class and our lasting impact on campus; observing the systems that govern us as a community and learning how to improve, optimize, participate—and if need be—implement new (read: better) ways to go about enacting effective and long-lasting change on campus.
This year, we focused on understanding what we’re so interested in changing. To change things, without intensely figuring out every underlying process that makes it what it is today is to make the issues that we aim to alleviate more complex in the long run. This period began with my first ever Student Government town hall as President on September 19th, 2019. I wrote notes during the town hall with campus police to understand the issues that they face as law enforcement and how we, as students, can help. While not a lot of people outside of the Student Government attended the event, I made sure to spread awareness for different opportunities that the constituency can look for to increase their safety on campus. Here are a couple of notes from that event: I promise that my handwriting has gotten significantly better since then (though this isn’t the best representation of my handwriting then either).
My notetaking was not an exception to the metaphorical rule but instead was one of many physical manifestations of my ideology of being serious and intentional about my work in the Student Government—the metaphorical rule. This intentionality is meant to be a mainstay not only for me—though definitely has been since then—but for all representatives our of class and hopefully representative of what a true member of Elon’s Student Government should be like. Essentially, these actions should serve as a great example for future Elonians to emulate and hopefully continuously improve upon. Nothing nor no one is ever truly perfect; there is always something to improve upon. No thing nor one is ever truly perfect; there is always something to improve upon.
With that, we naturally try to understand our Student Government as an organization and an institution for change on campus. Following that line, we then understand that Student Government is incredibly opaque in how one is represented. That is not right. Though this is not the fault of our Student Government entirely, we share an incredible amount of blame for it. This is one issue that is incredibly present in my thoughts about governance across the world. Without an educated, well-informed populace, great and effective change cannot occur. Hence, one of the many problems that the Student Government faces: lack of engagement with the populace that we represent which leads to not representing what the student populace actually wants. I have heard many people say ‘‘What is SGA doing?’’ or ‘‘Wow I haven’t heard of that; can you sign me up?’’ or even ‘‘What is happening on campus today?’’ With this being an issue I spearheaded the initiative to solve it amongst our class with incredible pushback from some people who inadvertently nixed the whole project.
That won’t happen again.
For example, the ‘‘Elon, Today’’ Instagram story card. While possibly a lot of work to keep current, this is one of many ways to bring knowledge of events on campus to where the people are; social media. Linked is an early mock all the way from October.
There is a very large list of concerns that students have on campus. I should know, we collected and responded to over 40 concerns our fellow Elonians had about various systems that serve as vectors for these issues on our campus. Here it is: That is a lot of reaching out to affected parties, walking up to administration, professors, managers, and other stakeholders to get answers and—though a lot—we had to do it. Our constituents asked us to do so. We represent the will of the people. The will of the class of 2023.
These are some of the issues that we have on campus today, and our response to it. After the observation phase, we then shift to the second phase of the plan, optimization of the observed inefficiencies and the systems that govern the overarching issues on campus (so we can implement solutions relatively easily).
During the beginning of the end of the fall semester, I started to test the water on our ability to enact change. This led to the creation of the first-ever email created for a specific class by their Student Government representatives, [email protected]. This has never happened before and I should know—I work in the university archives. This was a daunting and tenuous endeavor that taught me the real amount of bureaucracy to do unprecedented change. Again, a lot of walking up to stakeholders, meetings—that Kimmy Castano can corroborate—and write-ups. In the effort of bringing the class of 2023 together—and more in-tune with their representatives wherever they are—going through the motions was imperative to succeeding in that effort. Motions, we did go through. Here is a follow-up e-mail to a meeting I had with the first line of contact for that project:
I turned nineteen that day.
Another example that is fully a Student Government is the standardization and optimization of bills presented to senators a part of the Student Government. I decided to standardize the bill creation process to be quicker, easier, and more focused on the bill itself rather than formatting. Here’s an example:
The bill released to us on the left, my optimized and standardized version on the right.
The version that I worked on for a night and a couple of hours is located here where you can see all of the ‘‘code’’ that goes into it. While it may look a bit challenging, once you read it and remember that you do not have to worry about working with formatting at all and instead get to focus on writing the bill only; it is worth it. Or maybe I’m just a nerd.
Also, did you know that people did not know that the Senate approved appropriations (approximately $330,000) to provide funds ‘'…to promote school spirit and initiatives that improve life on campus’’ for all students? While included in this Elon News Network article the revised treasurer manual took precedence—though I do not doubt its importance. ENN is not the mouthpiece of the Student Government and as such we should not rely on their ability to report the news. Instead, the Student Government should become a lot more transparent in their dealings and promote engagement with the process of conjuring, writing, and the presentation—with of course heated debate—of proposed bills from all stakeholders and especially those that we serve the most; our fellow students. We’re working on that; more to come next year. Think about a repository of bills and their current status… something akin to congress.gov and their bill tracker.
This phase is to optimize the current processes—and while rare, possibly introduce new ones—so that we can have the ability to engage with our constituents, develop legislation with the intention to enact lasting and effective changes for the betterment of our community here at Elon now and for the future. After sufficient optimizations to create and encourage a hotbed for growth, trial, error, and everything else, we move to the third phase; implementing the big ideas that we develop together as a community for our community.
Let me be honest. As of right now, this phase is not as concrete as I would like it to be. I currently have no clue what is on the docket for the third phase but I do know what it will look like.
During the first and second phases, we understood our surroundings, improved our ability to identify, create, and maintain effective change, and created the opportunity to continue doing just that. This phase is more for the bigger ideas that we have worked on since the first. The grand ideas that took many days, months, years, blood, sweat, and tears to develop and get proper feedback from our constituents. In essence, this is where we cap-off the humongous—maybe even radical—changes we intend to make. This is where consulting the populace—not only ‘23 but ‘24, ‘25, and ‘22—is paramount to making changes that bring about actual long-lasting change that improves Elon for every future student that lightly steps through Alamance to touch the melted bell; just like we did at the beginning of the school year.
We intend on implementing sweeping—while remaining intentional, pointed, and directed—changes that improve the lives of everyone on campus for many years to come. We’ve already implemented some ideas, like the class email, but I look forward to implementing much more over this time. Think of the second phase as refining the current processes while developing new ones; this phase is to refine and then implement the new processes developed during the optimization period.
Our final year as undergraduates looks to put a metaphorical bow on top of all the hard work that we’ve completed as a class. Refinement of current processes using the data gathered from the implementation phase, assisting new members of the—hopefully forevermore full—senate in meeting the expectations set by the class of 2023, and making sure that once we leave Elon will be better than when we started.
Though this plan is audacious, I dare to hope that we will be able to enact effective and long-lasting change on Elon’s campus—for the better. As I said that I was keen on setting the tempo for the most radical class to ever grace Elon’s campus, I remain so and am also keen on developing Elon to meet their ten-year plan in full force, and improve Elon for everyone that may grace its campus. With the class of 2023, we—together—will be able to do this.
I hope this clarifies my intentions for the next couple of years. As always, I can speak for hours on what I can do—if you’d like to hear that, just send me an email—but I’d rather just do. I speak about transparency, with this post, hopefully, this shows that I am about transparency. The change starts here and now.