With little output, Adams and Smith squander first semester in office

Halfway through their terms, some student body executives have made visible progress on the initiatives they promised to the Carnegie Mellon community. Student Body Vice President for Organizations Aaron Gross has reformed the re-recognition process for student organizations to make the process easier for both new and old groups. Student Body Vice President for Finance Eric Wu has been working with student organizations, through mandatory workshops, to craft their budgets for the next year. Gross and Wu are fulfilling their roles admirably and setting a high standard for our student leaders.

From one pair of executives, however, we have seen few results. Student Body President Jarrett Adams and Student Body Vice President Kate Smith have left us unimpressed. As student organization leaders and as members of the student body, we have heard nothing. If any new initiatives have been completed, they were done in secret and with little impact on the student body as a whole.

Perhaps the most striking way to see the failure of the student body executives to live up to their pledges is in their own words. Adams and Smith proposed several initiatives in the run-up to the student government elections last spring. A College Connect program would encourage interaction among students in different majors. The Executive Grant initiative would fund worthwhile campus projects. The Great Ideas campaign would encourage students to submit their own ways to improve the university. Some of these were, in fact, great ideas — but they have not been enacted in any meaningful way.

In a column in The Tartan last April, Adams promised that “CMU Connect Social” events linking different schools would begin shortly after the fall semester began. We have yet to hear of any. He encouraged students to follow the executives on Twitter at and on their website at Neither the Twitter account nor the website exists today. This could be understandable, since student government has its own set of web pages on the Carnegie Mellon site at

Yet the official website itself presents a weak and clouded picture of Adams and Smith’s activity over the past six months. Until this weekend, that page was last updated in April 2010 — before the current administration took office. Last week’s version of the site is still easily retrievable from Google’s Web cache. Sometime after Saturday night, five backdated news postings appeared that present the illusion of a student body president and vice president who have been in touch with their constituents all along.

Even so, it is a thin illusion. A “Fall 2010 Mid-Semester Report” — dated Oct. 29, 2010 but only uploaded to the Internet yesterday — devotes just one bullet point to the Great Ideas campaign, and other ideas sketched out in the PowerPoint presentation are vague, ill-formed, and preliminary. Even on the recently assembled executive branch website, the combined progress since October on all these planned initiatives amounts to a few paragraphs of description on a Web-based guide to Carnegie Mellon that does not yet exist. But most telling of our executive’s inactivity are the numerous references elsewhere in the October-dated presentation to delays, “lots of miscommunication,” and future work on “launching more communicative PR plans.”

Whatever initial progress the president and vice president may have made this fall, it certainly has not been communicated to the student body. The newly active executive website links to Adams and Smith’s current Twitter feed and Facebook page. With a total of 20 combined posts since last July, we remain unimpressed.

In contrast, past administrations, such as last year’s led by Rotimi Abimbola, actively communicated with the student body. They kept their websites updated, used The Tartan’s Leadership Perspectives column to inform the campus community, and frequently updated their social networking outlets to advertise events and initiatives.

Even though our student body leaders have squandered their first semester in office, we hope they take the next few months to put into practice some of their campaign promises or otherwise make visible progress. Too many Carnegie Mellon students are cynical about student government and feel that it does little to serve their needs. The current student body executives are only reinforcing that belief.