Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) will hold its final meeting of the year next Wednesday. Throughout the course of the academic year, members of the BSG assembly have been involved in a number of projects and processes. The Orient asked several members of BSG, including its president, vice presidents, and treasurer, to reflect on the year.
BSG worked this year to maintain a variety of pre-existing student services, strengthen the structure of the assembly, provide new programs for students, and propose policy changes for different entities on campus.
The most significant projects taken on by the assembly include proposing changes that will be adopted by the Judicial Board, continuing discussions with the Office of Academic Affairs about the Credit/D/Fail grading option and the Arabic program, and conducting surveys to gauge student experiences at Dudley Coe Health Center.
Vice President for BSG Affairs John Connolly '11 said that he thinks the assembly has grown as a body throughout the course of the year.
"People started listening a lot more, being a lot more attentive, so there has not been the repetition there was in the beginning of the year," he said.
Class of 2011 Representative Greg Tabak said that while last year's assembly focused primarily on constitutional reform, this year's assembly "didn't really have an overriding purpose this year."
"This year it was sort of like we waited for issues to come to us to deal with, which was very different, not necessarily bad," he said.
Class of 2009 Representative Ian Yaffe said he was satisfied with the amount of work that BSG did this year, but he thought that the assembly could have been more efficient.
"I feel like we spend too much time in our meetings getting on the same page, a lot more work could be done in advance if we just had the information ahead of time," Yaffe said.
The 27 current members of BSG sit on six committees: Academic Affairs, BSG Affairs, Student Affairs, Student Organizations, Facilities, and the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC). These committees have convened as a full assembly 20 times this year.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Sam Dinning '09 said that he thinks BSG accomplished "a great deal" in the realm of academic affairs.
He explained that although some of what BSG does is visible or tangible, much of the work in academic affairs is not.
"The glacial speed of academia makes changes less apparent," he wrote in an e-mail to the Orient.
Dinning said the most significant development in academic affairs this year is that the College will continue to offer Arabic next year.
The committee for academic affairs also submitted a proposal to Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd regarding the Credit/D/Fail grading option. It recommended that professors should not be able to know which students are taking a course Credit/D/Fail, and it also proposed that the option be changed back to Credit/Fail, without the possibility of earning a D. Additionally, the committee recommended that first-year seminar registration should revert to the way it was before this year, allowing students to prioritize course choices instead of listing several without an order.
Dinning said that students on his committee "have great relationships with faculty members," but that their relationship with the administration "could be better."
"Students certainly have a valuable role in the decision-making processes of the College, but we still need the administration to be more open to student and faculty ideas if we're going to have a truly collaborative process," he wrote in the e-mail.
Vice President for BSG Affairs John Connolly '11 described his committee as "the geekiest BSG nerd committee," because, he explained, "It's focused on making sure BSG operates, making sure that everything else can function."
According to Connolly, BSG Affairs' responsibilities include writing the legislation for the body, writing proposals, compiling meeting packets, running elections, managing the budget, and heading up communications, including BSG's Web site, newsletters, and the message board in Smith Union.
Connolly said he thinks the committee's biggest accomplishment was the work it did with the Judicial Board. The committee proposed several ways in which the Judicial Board could alter the way it presents information to the student body, both about specific cases and the Board itself. The Judicial Board has agreed to adopt much of the proposal.
"In the end, it was a very fruitful discussion, and it was great that BSG was able to work with the J-Board to get things changed," Connolly said.
Much of the focus for the student affairs committee this year was on student health issues—physical, mental, economic, and social.
After releasing a poll about the Dudley Coe Health Center in the fall that the BSG assembly deemed inadequate, a second survey was administered during the spring semester in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs.
"I think that's been a great success we've finally gotten the Health Center survey out," Vice President for Student Affairs Carly Berman '11 said.
The student affairs committee also arranged for free massages to be provided for students during finals and reading periods, prepared a booklet about how to cut costs at Bowdoin that will be distributed to next year's incoming students, created displays in Smith Union about social life at Bowdoin, and arranged for late-night snacks to be provided during Ivies.
Hannah Bruce '11, the vice president for student organizations, said that her committee focused "on supporting clubs and helping clubs maintain their charters and memberships."
"They have the opportunity to come, and we'll help them get going," Bruce said.
Among the newly chartered clubs this year are a lyricist poetry society, a Russian martial arts club, a ping-pong club, and the yellow bike club, a bike-sharing organization.
Mike Dooley '10, the vice president for facilities, and next year's BSG president, said that his committee focused on maintaining pre-existing services and figuring out how to make them run more smoothly.
"My year was mostly spent trying to work the kinks out of things," Dooley said.
Dooley listed the newspapers available in the dining halls and Smith Union, the airport shuttle, and the night taxi to the bowling alley among the services that the facilities committee has supported this year. Dooley added that his committee also conducted the background research for the gender-neutral housing initiative that was discussed during March meetings of BSG.
Student Activities Funding Committee
BSG Treasurer Ugo Egbunike '09, who heads up the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC), said that his committee manages student funds across various clubs and assures that all clubs have equal access to those funds.
"I would say the biggest thing that we worked on was cleaning up the messes that were going on this year," Egbunike said.
Egbunike said that when clubs overspent this year, "we wouldn't know until after the fact." He also said that there was a high number of funding requests throughout the year. The increased workload caused the SAFC to meet an average of three hours each week, twice as long as it normally would.
Under the current system, clubs must report their budgets once at the end of the year, but Egbunike said that starting next year, clubs will undergo budget check-ins throughout the year.
Seifert noted the relative youth of BSG—seven years—and said that she hopes that next year's assembly will be able to move beyond the stage of "setting precedent."
"A lot of the work that I've been a part of, has just been sort of setting precedent, and creating spaces where we can really engage and get our foot in the door," she said.
Yaffe, however, disagrees with Seifert's assessment.
"I don't buy that argument at all. Bowdoin has had student government for hundreds of years, and just because its name changed, doesn't mean student government just started six years ago."
Tabak said that he is hopeful that BSG will be more relevant to student life next year.
"I hope that we can ensure that we are not a marginal institution," he said. "I hope that we can really assert ourselves as a body and continue to build BSG as an institution."
Dooley, who will be next year's president, wants to change the sentiment he perceives on campus that "BSG doesn't do anything."
"In a perfect world non-BSG members would come forward with things they want to get done," he said.