Uncategorized

Santa Rosa Fire Update

Thanks to the hard work of the Bennett Valley Fire Department and the numerous other first responders who provided mutual aid, I am thrilled to say that our house was spared by the Adobe/Nuns Fire. It is hard to put into words the gratitude my family feels for those who provided air support, dug ditches, and otherwise put their lives on the line to save the home we cherish so much. It has been a long and exhausting week (and we are still evacuated) but I am grateful for the friends and family who provided shelter and support and for my community which stood together to provide aid to those most in need.
Countless families were not as fortunate as mine; the fire has taken 3,500 homes in Santa Rosa alone with this figure growing daily. As is almost always the case, this disaster will affect those families that were already struggling the most and that have now lost their homes and/or their livelihoods. Recovery is both imminent and ongoing, but will also span months if not years. For those who have asked and for those that are able, I’ve compiled a list of ways you can help:

Short-term:

https://www.redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief

http://refb.org/

Medium Term:

http://www.sonomacf.org/sonoma-county-resilience-fund/

Long-term:

Support local politicians who advocate for affordable housing, healthcare, and environmental regulation

More info here: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7512190-181/how-to-help-volunteer-donate?artslide=0

We’re not out of the woods yet and there is so much work to do; our first responders have done their part now let’s do ours.

-Julian

 

Uncategorized

Sonoma Academy Opening Convocation Speech

Background: 

Clare and I were recently asked to give the opening convocation speech at my high school. It was an exciting event, not only because the speech occurred roughly 12 hours after my return from Romania, but because it was a continuation of my recent involvement with the school. Furthermore, it was an fun to share this experience with my sister and all the incoming freshman whose seats I was in over 10 years ago (!!!). The focus of our speech was informed by recent events as well as Clare’s and my relationship. We spoke of the differences we experienced in high school (and continue to face today) and how, in learning to appreciate those differences, we grew both individually and collectively. Cheesy I know but it was a high school convocation speech!

Note: the most difficult aspect of this speech by far was writing it as a dialogue. The only speeches that could serve as inspiration were award show nominations.

Full text below:


Speakers: Julian & Clare Mackie

Date: 8/21/17

Julian: Good morning & welcome to the first day of school!

Clare: Thank you to Janet and to the board for their invitation to speak today

J: And Congratulations to the class of 2018 on your last first day of high school

C: and to the class of 2021 on your first, first day of high school

J: This is my twin sister Clare

C: And this is my twin brother Julian

J: Janet asked us here today to share a bit about our experience at Sonoma Academy and give you some tips to take with you for the upcoming year.

C: The more we talked about it, the more we realized how different our experiences were

J: See, as much as we have in common, we certainly have a lot of differences

C: At SA, Julian was the competitive one. If he wasn’t in the gym or on the field, he was racing his friends to lunch or up the stairs

J: Clare was less competitive. But whatever she may have lacked in the gym…

C: I would point out that I played for 3-time NCS winning team!

J: Regardless… she made up for in her commitment to pushing her boundaries — in chorus, in physics, in Nicaragua and Thailand.

C: Julian was also the mouthy one. You couldn’t go to a community meeting without hearing him hold forth..

J: Clare was the compassionate one. Always serving as a mentor, or a tutor, or a listening ear.

J: While competitive in sports, I initially lacked focus on academics….it was quite a shock when Marco pulled me up by my collar and told me that I not only could but WOULD do better….or else!  And I did.

C:and I had never felt confident in schoolwork, and was pretty terrified my freshman year. Amazing teachers and Margie Pugh supported my growth; I learned persistence and how to ask for help, and I graduated confident that I could be a successful student.

C: Since SA, Julian has focused on public affairs and business. He lives in San Francisco and is usually travelling for work.

J: And Clare is pursuing her love of psychology and education. Now she lives in Boulder, Colorado, does a lot of exploring and hiking,s  and works in the engineering department of the university.

C: When we arrived to our first day of school…

J: To a campus that, by the way,  looked nothing like this…

C: We arrived as the Mackie twins.

J: But 7 years after graduation, our paths couldn’t look any more different.

C: Yet, our relationship has never been better.

J: What SA taught us was the importance of self-exploration. Of finding our own values and goals. Pursuing our own paths.

C: At the same time, we learned to have appreciation for those with different goals

J: It was the teachers, many of whom we see today, and the staff, that set this example – to be ourselves, but not to reject “different ness”.

C: People like Brandon, and Kerry who  taught me to find my own voice. To be ultimately proud of my own insightfulness and sensitivity.

J: And it was people like Doug who taught me to look outside this community and to identify with those in far off places like Romania or Liberia.

C: Today, we would like to issue a challenge — to all of you:

J: Rigorously pursue your own identity but do so with real appreciation  for those around you.  Be curious and open in building your own community.

C: When you leave SA you may go any number of directions, but the person you become and the values you develop will remain central for life.

J: This principle of being true to yourself and accepting of others is relevant not only in how you treat your teachers or classmates, but also how you approach and communicate with those outside of this school community

C: In the news it’s easy to see how often the world is defined as  black and white: Republican vs. Democrat. We vs. them.

J: It could be easy to define yourself with these same labels but the truth is that, now, and for years to come, your identity, your beliefs, even your friends, are fluid.

C: Practice empathy with those in your classes as they explore their ideas and , their beliefs, and their friends.

J: Challenge yourself to do the same. To push your own boundaries. To explore new ideas. To meet new people.

C: Take pride in the diversity of this community and the community that surrounds you.

J: Take pride in adding to that diversity. To the discussion in the classroom. To community meetings.

C: Create new clubs. New publications. New exploratory sessions.

J: And if you find yourself doubting yourself, or your confidence wavers, as it surely will, realize that you are surrounded at all times by teachers, mentors, friends that are here to support you in this journey.

C: We have a more particular challenge for each class.

J: To First Years, give yourself permission to be a new person at this school. Challenge yourselves to meet all sorts of new people and to explore new ideas. High school is going to be some of the best four years of your life and I hope you live it up.

C: To Sophomores, you’ve already begun to feel comfortable in this community. Push yourself to try new things. You are supported here, and what you may see as a failure is really a step towards success and finding out more about yourself.

J: To Juniors, as you begin to look past SA, to college or otherwise, reflect on this community. Seek out other spaces, other communities that emulate not only your own values, but also the values of diversity, inclusion, and self-expression.

C: And to seniors, recognize that you are the leaders of this community. Lead by example but also take the time to truly appreciate the peers you have spent the last four years with and the uniqueness of this community.

J: Thank you all again for welcoming us back

C: And best of luck this school year!

Articles, NOPNA

Safety – By the Numbers

(This article appeared appeared in NOPNA’s June / July Edition which can be located here)

On busy nights, Divisidero, Masonic, and other NOPA streets are filled to the brim with tourists, date-goers, bike-commuters, and families. With so many pedestrians and bikers on the road, it’s no surprise that traffic safety is a major concern (only confirmed by the recent VisionZero Survey). However, the traffic data needed to pinpoint major hazards and therefore to give insight into necessary safety solutions has been scarce – until now.

NOPNA recently analyzed traffic data provided by the city dating back to 2005. Although collisions have dropped by 40% from 2012-2015 (around 12% a year), pedestrian and bike collisions remain a major concern – 40% of all collisions in the last 12 years have involved either a pedestrian or bicyclist.

Of the 74 collisions involving pedestrians, most occurred in a crosswalk with 70% of those caused by a failure by the driver to yield right of way to the pedestrian. Predictably, the most common intersections for these collisions were popular pedestrian areas – Divisidero between Fell and Turk or Masonic between Fell and Hayes. For bikers, most collisions occurred at stoplights with Masonic and Fell Streets as the most common locations.

Though reminders to look both ways before crossing may seem tired, vigilance remains the most important deterrent of traffic collisions. As our neighborhood continues to grow in popularity, and the number of bikers and pedestrians rise, NOPNA will continue to look at additional safety improvements to slow traffic, protect intersections, and deter other forms of unsafe driving.

Source: City of San Francisco, Traffic Data, 2005-2015

 

2018-02-05_17-59-492018-02-05_18-00-03

Politics

Conclusions from Colorado

I recently spent two weeks volunteering for the Hillary campaign in Colorado. I spent the majority of my time knocking on doors (canvassing) in the 6th congressional district on behalf of the Colorado Democratic Party. When I wasn’t canvassing, I attended events or visited my friend in the campaign headquarters. Though the experience was a fascinating anthropological study, I focus here on two political issues, the campaign as an organization, and the importance of inclusive voting laws.

Ground Game

Throughout my time in Colorado I was incredibly impressed with the sophistication of the Hillary campaign. I was constantly reminded by a 2015 article in NY Time’s Upshot column titled, “Why a Presidential Campaign is the Ultimate Start-Up.” In the article, Neil Irwin compares the growth of recent presidential campaigns with that of firms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Uber. These similarities are most clearly seen in the fundraising pace of campaigns and start-ups. In the time that it took Snapchat to raise almost $200 million, Obama’s 2008 campaign raised nearly $700 million.

These comparison go well beyond fundraising. Chief in my (admittedly Human-capital oriented mind) are the organizational difficulties of creating a campaign of this scale. While Irwin’s article focuses on the leadership capabilities of the campaigns, it is the sheer size of the volunteer base, and the organizers that guides these volunteers that stands out to me. In Colorado alone, there are around 20,000 volunteers for the Hillary campaign. To be as effective as possible these volunteers must be trained, dispatched to the areas in need, and be equipped with the tools to collect valuable data that be reported back to the campaign. Fortunately for the Hillary campaign, most individuals willing to volunteer are highly capable of engaging potential voters. Talented volunteers allow the campaign to devote fewer resources to training and dedicate more attention to other important organizational capabilities.

The rising importance of data for campaign operations creates the need for rapidly scalable platforms for analyzing and operationalizing information for those working in the field. I spent a couple hours observing, and in some cases using, the software tools that the campaign utilizes to infer important insights about potential voters. The difficultly of building these tools mirror the challenges many large organizations face. Some of these challenges include: the need to quickly develop and deploy these tools, the necessity that these state-specific tools interact with national databases, and the difficulty of standardizing the information inputted into these databases.

These are important challenges of a campaign that are not reflected in national headlines. Though policies, media soundbites, and “October Surprises” are crucial to forming voter impressions, so are the ground-operations of a well-run campaign. Making phone calls, knocking on doors, and organizing community events makes a crucial difference in close races. Organizing a national volunteer force to carry out all of these responsibilities is no small order but, as Irwin concludes, it may be an important indicator of a candidate’s ability to effectively manage the 2.7 million employees of the federal branch. The presidential candidate who has most effectively organized such a campaign is no mystery in this election and we will see shortly how it has paid off.

Voting Laws

Colorado’s voting laws are some of the most progressive in the country. Colorado law allows same-day voter registration so voters can register at the polls on election-day and does not require a photo ID for registration. While my own state of California does not allow for same-day registration, it does however offer automatic registration for anybody who interacts with the DMV (a policy that Colorado and nearly 30 other states are considering.)

Where Colorado most impressed me was its absentee voting laws. Not only does Colorado not require an excuse for absentee voting (it is one of 30 state to do so), it is also one of three states to allow all-mail voting (the others are Oregon and Washington). All registered voters are automatically delivered an absentee ballot regardless of the size of the election (some states, including California, only allow for all-mail elections in smaller precincts or for particular elections.)  Voters can either mail their ballots, drop-off their ballots in a number of “drop-boxes” which open up two weeks prior to the election, or vote in-person at a voting location (for the sentimentalists).

It is clear that these laws are meant to encourage voting by allowing flexibility around how one casts their vote. Early voting laws most affect working families who may be unable to find time on election-day to go to the polls. Anecdotally, I found that nearly 8/10 families I spoke to were planning to or were already able to utilize the drop-box voting option. The quantity and complexity of ballot measures alone can be overwhelming so additional time to review the ballot is particularly important for working families and families who speak English as a second language.

Increasing early voting has been a crucial aspect of the HRC campaign. Republicans historically fare well in early voting while Democrats make up the difference on Election Day. Hillary has several incentives to focus on early voting. By building an early lead, Hillary may hope to deter Republicans who see the result as inevitable. Another (perhaps unspoken) reason for the campaign’s focus on early voting, is that Hillary was up 5-7 points in national polls when early voting opened with not major controversies on the horizon. This is demonstrated in Trump’s recent comments about early voters recalling their ballots as he attempts to make up for Hillary’s momentum in early returns.

The importance of these laws go beyond politics. Countless voters who I spoke to over the past few weeks have lamented on their choice between what they see as two unfavorable candidates. It was clear to me that the most important aspect of all was their ability to choose. It was the families in the most disenfranchised communities that were most welcoming to me, and the most eager to be a part of the democratic process. Colorado’s voting laws not only made voting easier in the practical sense, it also sent an important signal that everyone’s voices mattered equally. This sentiment should ring true with any freedom-loving American no matter their politics.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/upshot/why-a-presidential-campaign-is-the-ultimate-start-up.html?_r=0

http://www.npr.org/2016/09/23/491999689/a-complete-guide-to-early-and-absentee-voting

http://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/voter-registration-modernization-states

https://ballotpedia.org/Colorado_Automatic_Voter_Registration_Initiative_(2016)

https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/state-elections/state-voting-laws-requirements.htm

http://www.npr.org/2016/09/23/491999689/a-complete-guide-to-early-and-absentee-voting

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/trump-early-voters-change-230623

 

College, Politics

[Senior Thesis] Just Housing: An Examination of Inequality in John Rawls’ Theory of Justice as Fairness

Date of Submission: April 2015

Readers: Alex Rajczi, Andrew Schroeder

Department: Philosophy and Public Affairs

Abstract

How would a housing system work in a just society? How do we account for differences in opportunity according to one’s birthplace? These two questions, both a result of our recent housing crisis, can be addressed through inquiries into policy, economics, history, or other forms of social sciences. In this paper I attempt to address these questions instead through a philosophical lens by examining the principles that guide the distribution of goods in our society. It is from such a theory that we can construct the fairest government or economic policies.

Theories of distributive justice try to account for the fairest distribution of goods in a society. I take one such theory, John Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness, and apply it to the distribution of housing. I begin by deconstructing the core principles of Rawls’ theory and analyzing how each applies to housing. Then I make an argument about the fairness of these outcomes. My conclusion is, in fact, Rawls theory does not adequately account for the importance of housing in our society. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate the inequalities that face families throughout our society by illustrating the profound impact of housing on one’s well-being as well as one’s opportunity to succeed.

 

Full Text: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cmc_theses/1195/

 

Uncategorized

A Defense and Criticism of Daniels’ Just Health

Executive Summary
Debates about the Affordable Care Act are usually related to the technicalities of its implementation, petty politics, and occasionally, more fundamental claims about the role of government. This latter claim usually centers on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or as been the case in recent divisive court cases, certain religious aspects of the legislation. Rarely, however, is this debate focused on the fundamental role of health in our society. Does health have moral importance? Is healthcare a good that the government should guarantee? If so, how should we view health in comparison to other goods like income? Is health intrinsically important or is it merely instrumental to goods such as opportunity? The answers to these questions seem as though they should hold a more principal role in the healthcare debate. However, few philosophers have even attempted to incorporate health into a coherent system of justice in a way that provides a compelling argument for a moral obligation to provide healthcare.

Norm Daniels, in his book Just Health, attempts to do just this. Daniels aims to incorporate the concept of health into the system of justice presented by John Rawls. Daniels’ claim focuses on Rawls’ concept of Fair Equality of Opportunity.  Fair Equality of Opportunity, in a grossly simplified way, states that individuals should have an equal chance of succeeding as those born with similar talents and motivations, regardless of the socioeconomic status they were born into. Rawls uses this principle to advocate for the importance of education as a way of protecting equality of opportunity. In Just Health, Daniels argues that we should view healthcare in a similar manner as Rawls views education.

If Daniels can make an effective claim that the government should provide a base level of healthcare, as it does with education, there would be a very compelling for some level of universal healthcare. The problem, as several philosophy scholars pointed out, is that the concept of health is too large a concept to fit neatly into Rawls’ conception of Fair Equality of Opportunity. Namely, viewing healthcare through the lens of opportunity forces us to discount the importance of diseases and disabilities incurred at birth as well as care for the elderly and those with a terminal illness. Furthermore, if we view health as a good analogous to a good such as income, we are forced to accept certain tradeoffs and an overall level of inequality in health that may prove unattractive to many.

Though Daniels theory accurately expands Rawls conception of health to include the social determinants of health and therefore to expand Fair Equality of Opportunity to include health, it falls short of answering the fundamental questions about the importance of health. Understanding Daniels’ argument, and how it falls short, is hopefully an important step in finally conceiving of a compelling presentation for public healthcare as a claim of justice.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rSX26O2_lOoM7FfhyZ4Ihve_eUbXn9No-j0u4CrhQf8/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

College

Entrepreneurship & the Liberal Arts

There is an ongoing tension that exists between the tenets of higher education and the key principles of entrepreneurship. Our role at CIE, as a research institute, is not to fight those tenants, but instead to supplement them. This means we must be honest with ourselves about the challenges entrepreneurs face as students of a rigorous liberal arts college and we seek to understand the best role we can play in the lives of student entrepreneurs-just exactly what our role is can be complicated.

Peter Thiel, Co-founder of PayPal and The Founders Fund, and the Rand Paul of Silicon Valley, offers the best insight into this dichotomy. Thiel, in a famed course at Stanford University, presents the idea of vertical and horizontal innovation. He claims that vertical innovation is when an organization goes from “0-1 (e.g. the invention of the light bulb). Horizontal innovation on the other hand is from “1-n” (e.g. the newest iteration of the iPhone). Thiel makes broader claims about how horizontal innovation is moving at record speed while vertical innovation is rare in today’s economy (Clayton Christiansen makes a similar claim in the most recent edition of the Harvard Business Review,) but what he says about higher education is more relevant to our work. Thiel goes on to say that education, in its most basic form, is the epitome of the “1-N” approach. The structure of higher education involves the recitation of previous researchers, writers, etc. with the best students hopefully adding their own interpretation of that work. This work is undeniably important and innovative but doesn’t seem to be the kind of innovation that drives the greatest ventures of our time. I believe this dichotomy demonstrates our primary challenge at the CIE. That is, how we advance this type of “0-1” thinking within an institution built on the “1-N” approach.

So far I have three theories: 1) ventures that seek to solve “0-1” issues are those started by people who are incredibly curious and passionate, 2) funders of those ventures are deeply connected with the mission of their venture, and 3) for those people, the most useful thing CIE can do is just to make their lives easier.

Of the first two points I think the latter is more important because it often brings out the former. Of the most successful ventures started at CMC in last few years, many (if not most) have included some aspect of “social good.” While I think this represents a generational movement towards businesses that do good for the world, I also think it indicates how much easier it can be to start a venture in college when you are truly invested in the cause you are working towards. What I have observed is that student entrepreneurs who are successful in college need to be deeply motivated by whatever there are working on in order to reconcile the massive sacrifices they are making. At an undergraduate level, students can more easily find their passion through important social issues rather than areas of deep expertise such as BioTech or HR Software. Of the most successful for-profit ventures I have observed, each has been lead by founders who find an equally compelling connection to their product- whether it be software or Clean technology. Students who are deeply connected to their work are not only more likely to make the sacrifices needed to succeed, they seem to perform better, and mentors, funders, and co-workers notice. This, to me, seems to embody the liberal arts doctrine.

If this theory is true than CIE’s role should be threefold: to help students identify problems that inspire them, to foster the creativity and intrepidity to face those problems head-on, and lastly, and most importantly, to do whatever we can to make their lives as student-entrepreneurs easier. This last claim is not mine originally- Miles Bird, former ASCMC Vice President, and current Director of Business Development at Kairos helped all of us understand this when we started the CIE. Working on a venture in college is really difficult. We are all full-time students, most likely working jobs to pay for school and outings, and overwhelmed everyday by a multitude of events and extracurricular activities. The idea of starting a company in the middle of all of this is pretty insane. So the people who take the leap have to contain serious passion for what their doing or else they will burn out or worse, finish college with no idea of what interests them or drives them as both students or individuals.

So what can we do to make entrepreneurs’ lives easier? Well we are still figuring that out. Our physical space is a start. We try and provide a space for entrepreneurs to feel inspired and creative and to meet like-minded students. We started our summer fellowship so that students could continue working with fellow students over the summer with a stipend and access to various resources. We provide access to CIE’s vast alumni network and try to identify resources at CMC, across the 5C’s, and within Southern California so motivated students may take advantage of them. All of these are a start but ultimately, they’re just that. The biggest accomplishment we have made so far is that we exist and now we must focus on existing in the future.

In the next year all of CIE’s original founders will graduate. Not only do I hope that CIE continues to grow beyond all of our own expectations, but that the entrepreneurial community as a whole grows too. Both have grown beyond my wildest dreams in the last three years. As the next leadership team introduces new initiatives and moves in new directions, I suspect CIE’s role on campus will stay the same: to enable inspired students to solve the problems they feel passionate about. Only then will we capture the true meaning of “innovation.”

College

Summer 2014

The weekly flights can be exhausting. The delays, the sitting, the need to remove my shoes. Sometimes when I sit down on my flight I pass out within a couple minutes. Sometimes I continue the work I never really stopped thinking about. The one thing that seems to break up the seeming monotony are the people. Most people I’m sitting next to have a more interesting story than I do- they’re making a reunion or returning from an adventure. Of the people I met this summer, here are some of the most notable:

“Tennessee” was a 26-year-old woman. She was tall and muscular- a basketball player in high school who still played with her girls. She was from Nashville and carried an accent that made me jealous.  She was a waitress, living at home with her mom but really wanted to be a nurse. She described the same mother/daughter my twin sister experiences at home. We spoke about growing up in Nashville, about her boyfriend who was a vet current capitalizing on the marijuana market in Colorado. We mostly spoke about what it was like the be young and restless. To be frustrated yet happy. Excited yet scared. After 90 minutes or so of talking we let the natural silence do its job and she return to studying for the MCAT while I read the Economist. Upon approach I showed her the various LA freeways I could recognize and she did her best country mouse impression.  We wished each other the best as I called my Uber,

It’s always a good day when someone looks more rushed and disheveled than I do on the 7am flight out of Burbank.  When the flight attendant came around to make sure everyone was wearing a seat belt, “Louisiana” ordered a coffee and two baileys. Louisiana was her in 50’s I think-. She was a big woman with a deep, deep Louisiana accent. I’m not sure how we started speaking but she sure warmed up as she drank her coffee. She was on her way from Louisiana to Alaska to see her daughter. Her daughter had bought some property outside of Juneau a few years before and she went up as often as should could. She showed me pictures of the Alaska property, and then of her daughter, and then of her extended family. We spoke about Louisiana and I told her was from Northern California. She told she had lived in Chico for many years. When she was 5 she had been playing in the front yard and a drink driver drove almost clear into their house, killing her little brother in the process. Within a week her mother had moved them all to Chico, selling the old house immediately. She eventually moved back to Louisiana to start a family but we never spoke about anyone except her daughter. We talked about all sorts of memories- where she was living when this or that happened. I wasn’t even an idea when most of these stories happened but he kept saying, “but of course you know that honey.” I fought off sleepiness for a while out of politeness but the mother in her knew and she offered her pillow to me in the way mothers do when declining isn’t an option. When I woke up she was asleep too and we were descending into Washington- time to start another workweek!

As the summer winded to an end it was time for one more flight, this time from Oakland to Ontario for my return to school. As I sat on the bus, deliriously tired, a delicate woman, “Yale, about my mother’s age, quietly sat down next to me. As I teetered in and out of sleep she smiled at me and asked where I was travelling. Not to be rude, I sat up and responded. Before long we were swapping stories about Mexico and the characters we met there. We talked about her husband and her childhood on the East coast. Before long she told me about her current work with Music Therapy. After an all too short 20 minutes she had left and I was purchasing her book on Amazon. An amazing woman with an amazing story- a perfect way to wrap up the summer and the conversations I shared.

Sometimes I’m wary of the travel that will await me when I join the workforce fulltime. There is an undeniable exhaustion that accompanies the constant lines, delays, and hours of immobility. I’m not naïve enough to think I won’t be too tired or too tired to share these moments but I hope I’m never too jaded or distanced to see why they’re important or how much they mean to me. Maybe the point of writing this down is so I can look back at it and remember how cool these people were.

So ends summer 2014.

Articles, College

The Case for ASCMC Senate Committees

(This post appeared in the CMC Forum on February 24, 2014)

Last night’s debate in Executive Board about student fees raised numerous questions regarding the way in which ASCMC is run. The clearest issue was that conversations on issues such as tuition increases are surprisingly absent in ASCMC, especially in Senate. While Senate is great medium for students voices to be heard, there is a noticeable lack of meaningful discourse and decision-making. I do not fault anyone within Senate for this issue, nor are the previous Vice Presidents to blame. Rather, I think this is due in large part to the lack of responsibility that Senate holds, the lack of opportunities for one to apply his or her specific passions, and a general lack of innovation in the structure of the body. This is a huge loss. Senate needs to be reformed so that we can carry out more substantive debate, better engage campus leaders, and play a larger role in advocating on behalf of the student body.

There need to be Senate Committees that address issues facing our student body. At this time, there are currently only four Senate committees:  Administrative Affairs and Budgetary, Campus Improvement, Technology, and Academic Affairs. Although all are essential, they fall far short of representing the full spectrum of student interests and addressing social issues. Instead, there should be committees in areas students are passionate about and engage club leaders across campus to spearhead them. They can get students from a variety of backgrounds involved in addressing these topics. A few examples of these committees could be: a committee on Sexual Assault Culture, on Wellness, on Community Engagement, and on Diversity. These groups can then create initiatives, plan events, and inform the student body on matters that impact our entire college. This will not only make Senate more engaging and fulfilling, but it will also make our campus better off.

The recent debate over the rising cost of tuition only shows how little we have done to initiate this conversation and to express our deep concern to the Board of Trustees. Senate is uniquely capable of advocating on students’ behalf because it contains such a diversity of members. Two years ago, Senate passed a resolution to pressure the administration to implement gender-neutral housing. This past week, Eric Vos spoke at Senate regarding housing policies that will go into effect next year. This process highlights the potential of Senate to advocate for certain policy changes and for those opinions to be heard. These resolutions can be initiated by Senate committees, or even just individual students who are passionate about timely issues and specific administrative policies. Senate can do a better job of advocating for are: mental health resources, funding for underfunded academic departments, certain DOS policies, greater resources for LGBTQ students, and the aforementioned rising tuition costs. These matters are all extremely important to the student body; Senate is in a great position to not only address them collectively, but also to lobby the administration on the student body’s behalf.

These changes require leadership by members of Senate, members of the Executive Board, and students around CMC who care passionate about social change. If we can create a culture of advocacy and student engagement, we can use the initiative and passion of CMC students to really address campus issues and play a larger part in campus policy. Senate has the potential to accomplish these goals, but it will take structural reform to get there. The result will be a more active Senate along with solutions to the issues we care about most. In turn, ASCMC will cease to exist solely as an event planning organization, and it will emerge as a responsive, representative entity to enact positive social change.

Study Abroad, Uncategorized

Finding my Voice Again

There were four stages of my departure from India: the first, when I said goodbye to my friends in Jaipur, the second, when my parents arrived for Christmas (thus ending my “abroad” lifestyle), then, my arrival home (with the fortunate opportunity of experiencing my culture shock alongside my family), and lastly, my arrival in Claremont. Each of these were significant in their own way- they each provided unique learning opportunities and various perspectives for reflection. The start of the school year, and the madness that has ensued, has so far been the most overwhelming, and in many ways, most telling of all these experiences. One aspect of this was the overwhelming number of friends I reunited with, meetings I needed to schedule, and internship deadlines I immediately faced. Some of the most basic aspects of college even became foreign- the massive buffets, the luxurious facilities (yes I said it,) even the sheer number of people who seemed remarkably similar to myself in age, race, and even personality. Many of these stressors have also proven to be the best comforts: my friends, a busy schedule, peers willing to debate and connect on an intellectual level, even the ability to exercise every day. Of all these things, one aspect of CMC that has brought me tremendous satisfaction in the last two weeks –even more than I expected- is the ability to contribute and involve myself so immensely in the CMC community.

When I was abroad I always felt like an outsider, dependent on others to survive. I was in India as a student, my role was to absorb, to accept the wealth of knowledge and hospitality bestowed upon me by the incredible Indians I was surrounded by. To some this may sound amazing- in many ways the role is unique to a young traveler like myself- but this role often makes me feel anxious. My personality is to contribute, to get involved, to give back; although I love the opportunity to travel, I feel best when I can act in those ways. Claremont gives us all an incredible chance to get involved- to spread ourselves thin, to be leaders (if we chose), and hopefully, and most of all, to be a part of a community where we can offer our diversity of interests, talents, and ambitions.

Now before this dives to into the KLI-esque leadership cheese fest, I do think its worth reflecting on these opportunities as the privileges they really are. As I have readjusted to the extreme materialism of the US, the fact that this privilege stood out to me really says something. Sure, many people in a country like India would be jealous of our sports cars, our fancy electronics, and our stylish clothes. But I think the real value lies in our voices. Whether we chose to use them or not, we are each granted a wonderful opportunity to use our voices in ways that many people in India could never imagine. Our freedom to get involved with different interests, to advance in areas we find interesting, even to constructively criticize our peers, these should all be considered in our wealth of opportunities at CMC.

What this also helped me realize is how important it is to recognize the voices that are being quieted even in Claremont. This privilege is an exceedingly important aspect of CMC’s culture and any force that exists to suppress it- whether it race, sexual orientation, nationality, or even political position- should be acknowledged. I for one am extremely grateful for the incredible opportunities I have to use my voice and to contribute to things I believe in but I also recognize the factors that exist that grant me this privilege. As I continue to understand this dynamic and continue to take full advantage of the opportunities I have, I see some responsibility in ensuring that CMC continues to strive to be more open and welcoming to those whose voices may have been overshadowed in the past.

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