It is a great worry of mine that, amidst a flurry of campaign activity for the 2003-2004 Student Government Executive Committee, the voting population on campus will lose sight of what's really at stake here: the opportunity to examine and address the fundamentals at the U of C. How frequently does the student body ask the candidates: what do you envision for this school in the future? How do you see this University shaping the way that you think and interact with the world? What about this community needs to be changed? Better yet, how frequently do the candidates ask these questions of the student body? Given the fact that we students are renowned for our reflection and our bold curiosity, I find this troubling. Is it possible that, year after year, we miss this opportunity to think critically about the very institution that aids us in our intellectual endeavors?
The consequences of this failure to question are troubling as well. Most slates that run for Executive Committee lack an overarching vision: innovation occurs solely on the level of new bus schedules and meal-point flexibility. Certainly, a good leader is responsive to community complaints. But the role of Student Government should be more than that of a suggestion box; platforms should be created not by focusing on singular grievances, but rather by asking the question "What fundamental structures about this school need changing, and how can I use my position in the community to affect that change?" Student leaders must be able to lead the student body while empowering the students as individuals, to envision a better future for the University community, and to broker alliances between the students, faculty, staff, and administrators to reach that future. In this role, then, the Student Government has a dual responsibility: a responsibility not only to the students, to be their mouthpiece and to act on behalf of their interests, but also a responsibility to the administrators, to work in partnership with them towards the improvement of the University in all its dimensions.
After all, this University is many things: a generator of new knowledge, an employer, an academic and cultural center in Hyde Park and Chicago. But remember, first and foremost, this University is a school, and as such, it ought to prioritize the development and education of its students. We students are a diverse set of individuals with distinct needs, desires, and goals; yet, we are united in membership to a resource-rich, powerful community. Yes, there's much about our school to be thankful for: The U of C provides unparalleled opportunities for scholarship and personal growth. Nevertheless, I, like many students, see room for improvement. We must work not only to ameliorate the problems in daily student life--health insurance prices, 24-hour study spaces--but we must also work to create a healthy, symbiotic partnership with our school's faculty, staff, and administrators: a partnership that recognizes mutual responsibilities and that encourages the achievement and well-being of everyone. With willful and committed student leaders--leaders with a vision--I believe we can change the U of C for the better. We owe it to ourselves, and to the students who will follow us, to ask more of our student government.