Hampshire College is currently in the process of electing their new student referendum. This will essentially decide how Hampshire College’s new student government will take shape. As Hampshire College elects the new student referendum, I sat down with Simon Fields for more information.
Simon: There have been discussions about a student government, and there have been a small amount of people involved in the student government in most discussions. This is an opportunity for you to decide how a body in their name should function.
Alyssa: What are some on-campus issues that students are talking about with the referendum?
Simon: Well, the main issue is, currently we don’t have any way to really talk to the administration as an entire student body. And any other issues that arise, from our end, stem from the fact that there is no way for us to do that. So, this can be a way for us to hold the administration accountable, regardless of what model we use. But, if we go through the direct democracy and model we don’t only hold the administration accountable, we hold whoever is claiming to act of everyone else accountable as well, because then there isn’t any one person who’s doing that.
Alyssa: How will this student government be different from the last one?
Simon: So, the last one, my understanding is, there were meetings that were held kind of in secret. They didn’t really publicize when meetings would be, and there was a lot of shadowy stuff in that sense, there wasn’t a lot of transparency. I think it’s really important whatever model people choose, people know what’s going on. So, if it’s a direct democracy we need to make it clear that there’s going to be an assembly at this time. Possibly by going through RAs. Possibly by going through teacher-advisers; I don’t know exactly how we’ll do it. But part of the reason why I don’t know how we’re going to do this is because one of the questions is, ‘Should this be a residency-based system, should this be based on what year you’re in, should this be based on identity groups? If so, if it’s a federative system, which is basically direct democracy, except there are delegates who meet between assemblies and who can be recalled at each assembly what to do. So, if they’re doing a bad job, they can be voted out.
Alyssa: What kind of transparency would you like to see?
Simon: So, there are delegates. Or, even if there are representatives I think it would be good if the meetings were recorded and put online. If people know when the meetings are happening, and if anyone can attend them even in a representative system where the representatives have votes, I would hope, and I don’t know if this is what would happen, for a representative system it’s not really in our hands, anymore. But I hope that even then, it would be open to everybody. But if you really want transparency, vote for a direct system, because then, everybody’s involved. That’s just the definition of transparency.
Alyssa: What are some of your visions for the new student government? What would be best-case scenario? I know that a lot of the Hampshire student governments in the past have fizzled out, what would you like to see for this new one?
Simon: Well, a lot of them fizzled out and we’re most keen to remember the one that lasted from 2011 to 2015, but before then, there was a community council which was around from 1970 or ’71 to 2011. And it didn’t fizzle out. It was basically dismantled. So, we’re perfectly capable of doing this, is what I’m trying to say. And we need to learn from the mistakes of the past, and most importantly, we need to do our best to create something new. The most important thing to me is that everybody is involved, and that nobody has more power than anyone else. In a school with 1,300 people, a system that’s directly controlled by those people is more feasible than any other scale. We love to try new things at Hampshire. So, let’s try to do this.