The Candidates Speak: Franklin Williams
The Tartan has given space for each candidate running for Student Body President this year to respond to the following questions: What are the three most important changes that you have seen occur at Carnegie Mellon in your time here as students? What was the role of the Student Body President at the time and what would you have done differently had you been the Student Body President then?
In the past two years, although there haven?t been any specific events which garnered changes on campus, there has been an overarching change in the feelings which have moved through campus as a whole. Most importantly, the Natrat, the effect of diversity on campus, and the effects of political speakers on campus have forced us to re-evaluate the university setting as a whole, inspiring us to push forward. The roles of the Student Body President during these times are extremely important, and need to be looked at critically in order to see the effects they had and could have had on campus.
Last year, the publication of the Natrat brought about much controversy and debate on campus and was the start of what became a series of larger issues. While it was a difficult time for The Tartan and the campus as a whole, the change it brought about at the time was extremely important for the morale of campus. Carnegie Mellon is widely known as an extremely apathetic university, having an unspoken sense of bitterness and aggravation. The Natrat?s publication, although distressing, stirred university thinking and brought students? feelings to the forefront, forcing discussion where it had been avoided and ignored in the past.
Student government at the time, though, did not take a proactive step in using the issue to the advantage of the university. The open forum held a few days after the issue arose was hosted by The Tartan and had requested that Dan Gilman and Gilbert Dussek, Student Body President and Vice?President, moderate. Other than this, Gilman seemed to skirt around the issue at hand, failing to take proactive steps in using the open controversy to address other prevalent issues. As Student Body President, Gilman, in my opinion, should have followed up on the issues, holding subsequent forums and addressing topics related to the controversy, as well as issues relating to organizational and diversity issues on campus.
Recently, political speakers have been a major concern on campus, as well. From Shabazz to Finkelstein, students have been forced to take notice of policies such as the University?s controversial speakers clause, while taking into account the gravity of the effect that they and their organizations have on other groups and the campus as a whole. This year, the issues have been stepped around by the Student Body President, and I feel that they need to be directly addressed. Leaders of groups on campus represent the groups themselves. The Student Body President needs to work with University administration and develop programs to bring together university leadership. By having the leaders of campus organizations work together in groups, it will ideally foster an environment of trust and understanding among these groups and the University as a whole.
The political divide on campus was brought to the forefront when political figures like Michael Moore and John Kerry spoke to the community. Never before had the political split been so apparent and vitriolic. I believe that it is the job of the Student Body President to encourage different organizations to try and invite speakers from as many parties as possible, in order to maintain balanced political representation on campus.
I feel that in the past, too many Student Body Presidents have taken a very non-active or reactionary stance. I feel that it is time for most presidents to act in a way which they feel best suits the University. In this case, I find it necessary to take more action towards progressing forward and acting for the benefit of the University as a whole.