Opportunities for Change: Bates College Student Government’s Plans for the 2021-22 School Year

It’s a new school year, and that means old problems, new problems and fresh opportunities to solve them. The Bates College Student Government (BCSG) is already working on solutions.

The Student sat down with BCSG Co-Presidents Kush Sharma ‘23 and Marcos Pacheco Soto ‘24 to check in on their plans for this year. It’s their first year as co-presidents, and they have quite a bit on their plates.

“It’s been a lot,” Pacheco Soto said when asked how leading BCSG has been so far.

Last year, the Committee Selection Board (CSB), which is normally responsible for selecting students for the committees that comprise BCSG, was not active due to the pandemic. This meant that many seats on various committees were left unfilled. As a result, Sharma and Pacheco Soto have taken on the work of those committees as well as the hiring responsibilities of the CSB. They have also assumed the duty of creating a timeline and structure for the BCSG 2021-22 elections.

Even with the burden of handling administrative tasks meant to be out of their jurisdiction, Sharma and Pacheco Soto are forging ahead with plans for improving campus culture, safety and connectivity within the community this year. 

“We’re riding this real positive momentum that has been built these past few years,” Sharma emphasized. He explained that this year will be different because of the uniqueness and urgency of the problems at hand combined with support from a student body excited about positive change.

One main goal is to move forward with establishing a Critical Race Theory (CRT) requirement in the Bates curriculum as a general education concentration. Last year’s BCSG co-presidents, Perla Figuero ‘21 and Lebanos Mengistu ‘21, formed a committee of faculty and students to discuss plans for a CRT requirement aimed at fostering more productive conversation and action around “race, power, and privilege” on campus. BCSG has already had initial communications with members of the committee this month, and they plan to meet more in the coming weeks. 

“We’re planning to just get it done, soon. It’s been months in which we haven’t heard about it, and students really want to know what’s going on with CRT,” Pacheco Soto said. They will forge ahead with the project this year. 

Campus safety and reform — long a topic of discussion at Bates — is another area of focus. BCSG hopes to continue addressing concerns about equity, equipment use and Campus Safety’s employment diversity this year with the Campus Safety Advisory Council. Additionally, there are initial plans for a self-defense workshop this semester, run in collaboration by Res Life, Campus Safety and the BCSG. This workshop would be offered twice a year.

On a community front, BCSG is prioritizing strengthening relationships between faculty and students. BCSG understands that outside of formalized academic meetings, Bates lacks formal and informal spaces for conversation between faculty and students. 

Pacheco Soto explained that students are “just trying to get a better understanding of what’s going on. We feel the need to have a more bilateral relationship with the faculty body on campus.” Creating more opportunities for transparent communication between faculty and students will be an important area of work this year.

Sharma added that “we are also focusing energy on the class of 2024 in terms of what their needs and requirements are, having lived their freshman year in a very different setting from what Bates is.” Pacheco Soto, himself a member of the class of 2024, stressed that last year was unlike any other: “There was a lot of isolation, and it was hard to understand what Bates was really about.” He also pointed out that many of these concerns are likely not exclusive to ‘24, but shared by the whole student body. 

To address these issues, Sharma and Pacheco Soto hope to cultivate more opportunities for open conversation. A meeting with class representatives last week sparked proposals to hold town hall gatherings or other open activities where students can drop by and share their concerns. BCSG is committed to planning more engagement events with the student body in the coming school year.

Hiring secretaries will also be important for making information more accessible and transparent. With information more readily available, instead of simply asking “what” BCSG is doing, students will be able to ask “why” certain initiatives are occurring and “how” they can influence them.

Finally, BCSG is committed to rewriting their constitution to better encompass the full scope of their work and more clearly delineate the responsibilities of each role. 

Here’s what Sharma and Pacheco Soto want you to know: Assembly meetings are open to everyone! This semester, BCSG Assembly meetings will be held every Wednesday from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. The first meeting is on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in Commons 221. The venue for future meetings might change, but the time will remain constant. BCSG cares deeply about listening to the voices of Bates students, and attending assembly meetings is a great way to make yourself heard. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

There are five class representative positions open right now: three for the class of 2025, one for the class of 2023 and one for the class of 2022. Information on how to get in the race can be found here. Class representatives speak on the behalf of their class year as well as the whole student body. They also serve on BCSG committees.

The Fall 2021 BCSG Elections will be held from Friday, Oct. 1 to Monday, Oct. 4 on Garnet Gateway. Election results will be emailed out on Friday, Oct. 8.