Opinion: Student Government: A Source of Change, an instrument of hope and a catalyst for development-if students engage!

By Jaheim Javel Pierre ’25

First-Year Class President

As one of the first-year class presidents, I was intimidated by the opacity of my new role in the first weeks of the semester. To me it seemed to rash at the time and lacked a logical basis, to be a first-year class president. I was inspired by government meetings, seeing students across all walks of life here at the colleges who are granted the opportunity to make electoral choices on all issues petitioned during those weekly meetings. From time to time, key members of the institutional administration would be present to discuss policy, goals, and the agenda of the administration in a given time. It is an incredibly beautiful experience witnessing students talk about the issues they are passionate about and not only talk about but allocate resources to those causes where meaningful change and outcomes can be seen.  

What comes to one mind when the term government is uttered, some may think of Washington D.C and all the architectural expressions that is contained therein, which includes but is not limited to the White House, the Capitol building, and the monuments and statues that boldly convey governance. To others, the word government is equal to an individual figure that is thought to represent all the flaws or all the highlights and esteemed accomplishments of the idea of government. Precisely, regardless of what that word means to you, it should not undermine the fact that in HWS’ government, power is generated by the people it represents. It is imperative to hold the entities that represent you, i.e., government, accountable and challenge the institutions that they abide by to implement change. That sentiment is held across the board by all members of Hobart Student Government and William Smith Congress.  

Majority of the members were of the belief as college students we are at a critical juncture where we are the ones molding the future that we want to reside and thrive in. That process of molding and shaping the future begins right here, at the institution that provides us with the tools necessary to make that change. There is precedent in the United States and the world where students empowered through their respective student governments catalyzed not only institutional change but far-reaching national change as well. 

This is where student engagement plays a significant role in the shaping of the type of student government that could represent changes that students want to see. To achieve those, the HWS Executive Board encourages students to go out to townhalls, go to weekly student government meetings, email class presidents, and suggest ideas. In the absence of that elevated level of engagement, the decadence of institutional democracy is a certainty. It is well recorded that there is a correlation between the institutions with the most active student body and campuses that is flexible, open-minded and willing to ameliorate policies that are necessarily student-friendly, especially in ways of equity and justice. 

According to the records of HSG+WSC secretary ledger: These are the Achievements of the student government thus far for semester 1 

  • Provided funding to R.E.D, a campus organization that distributes free menstrual products around campus. 
  • Extended Discussion with Provost Sarah Kirk on program expansions and curriculum development including anti-racist curriculum development. Also discussed the possible inequities that exist among academic departments.  
  • Discussed with President Jacobsen on the budget, including the institution investment in ESG portfolios in addition to the overall stability of the colleges. 
  • Funded the all-male acapella group, the HobartTones 
  • Funded HWS Spike-Ball Club 
  • And many other productive discussions with the student body. 

One thing that is imperative to any institution’s stability and progress is the ability to effectively communicate. Student government as an institution that must communicate and evaluate interactions with the larger institution of HWS. As an elected representative of HWS student government framework, I spoke with other elected representatives about the process of leadership and shaping a campus culture that reflects the aspirations of an open-minded, fair, and equitable society. In my conversations with my colleagues, I attempted to get a sense of their thoughts on Hobart Student Government and William Smith Congress. With all my colleagues I spoke to, there was this overwhelming sense of student government being of vital importance to the sharing of student ideas and suggestions. It is clear every session that there is a consistent group of non-elected students who show up and vote. This one of the unique aspects of HSG & WSC, according to Johanna Golden the William Smith Congress Vice President. According to Hobart Student Government Treasurer, James Anderson, one of the most visible accomplishments in student government is the creation of the Dreamers Committee. This initiative is designed to improve marginalized students experience here at HWS, and as a practical demonstration of that commitment, 25% of the board excess funds will be used for that purpose.  

In the end, it is up to we the students to get involved in that part of student life. Secretary of Hobart Student Government, Noah Thirkill, believes one of the principal elements of student government here is the “power and autonomy students are given,” therefore engagement is important. President of the William Smith Congress, Litzy Bautista, subscribed to that belief of “students being empowered” as she referenced WSC & HSG suggesting a Covid-19 dashboard during the height of the pandemic. This was great as it reduced speculation and gave students correct information at such delicate emotional moments, and per Bautista, that change was only possible through engagement. Lastly, the changes and achievements listed here could only be achieved through student engagement. We have so much work to do students of HWS, there is hope in our ability to create the change we want to see, holding our institution accountable is not a source of hate, but love for progress, change, and respect to the evolution of a 21st century that calls for open mindedness, resilience, and equity.  

Thank you to all members of Hobart Student Government and William Smith Congress for your service, time, and commitment to ensuring students’ voices are heard.  

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