Posted by Julia Leef
Wednesday, Nov. 14 saw the first two meetings of a new group on campus, Skidmore Organizing Collaborative Change, which aims to empower student voices and create more transparency between students, faculty, and the administration.
The two meetings had a combined total of forty students who shared stories about their experiences at the College as well as how they would describe the campus atmosphere. Some of the more common words mentioned were "divided," "disconnected," "individualized" and "passive/apathetic."
"It was hard for me to come back to this community after studying abroad and see that there hadn't been real progression around the initiatives that I had truly been passionate about," said Taila Arnow '13, who sought out fellow students to aid her in this group. "There are brilliant people working on brilliant things, but if we're not working together then we can't build and create the community we want."
Arnow said she saw many students had dropped out of leadership positions, which made her want to create a team of leaders with different interests on campus but with a shared passion for the issues present. She approached several students at the beginning of the semester, including Alexandra Steinhauer '13 and Sam Harris '15, who have been in leadership roles. Steinhauer is a member of the Speakers' Bureau Chair, and Harris was a participant in the Everyday Leadership training panel earlier this year.
"I see people around me, and I see the potential they have and I don't see that reaching its actuality," Steinhauer said. "The ideas of the community resonate with me really strongly because of that. We're all here to make this an exceptional learning environment, and we haven't reached that."
"When I was a freshman, I never really brought myself into a position where I faced any roadblocks," Harris said. "But she [Arnow] wanted some underclassmen to be a part of this group. She shared her story and it resonated with me. I really wanted to help, so I decided to join and it's been a really great process ever since."
While these two particular members are in positions of leadership on campus, the group was very clear about not wanting to establish a hierarchy in their presence to the public. They emphasized a desire to collaborate with all groups on campus, including the Student Government Association, faculty and staff. All students, whether or not they are affiliated with a particular organization on campus, are invited to attend group meetings and share their own stories.
Although the group did not wish to share any specific plans for the future at the moment, the overall consensus was to try to change the culture on campus and to help people become more aware of their behavior towards the College community, with the eventual goal of bringing the conversation outside of their meetings to the campus as a whole.
"This movement needs to model the change that we want to see," Arnow said. "Everyone is a part of this cultural movement that is starting at Skidmore."
"It's a collective of people feeling community and wanting to enhance students' voices," Steinhauer said, adding that one of the changes she would like to see is a greater excitement towards student elections and to see all of the positions filled each semester.
Students who wish to learn more about Skidmore Organizing for Collaborative Change can direct their emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.