From The YCSA President's Desk- It's Broken, So Fix It
One of my favorite TED talks that I can remember watching as an adolescent was a presentation by Seth Godin. Godin, an author who primarily writes on topics pertaining to the advertising industry, spoke about the idea behind his since-defunct website, ThisIsBroken.com. His talk centers around the notion that for a host of reasons, we very often encounter frustrating circumstances in our lives that are the product of not thinking about the best way to fix them. As an example, Godin displayed a picture of a trash can in an office room that was constantly overflowing with tissues and the like. While the janitorial staff responded by coming in more frequently to empty the trash can, Godin poignantly noted that there was a much simpler and more complete solution to this problem. It would only take a recognition of this room’s surplus of trash production to indicate that it would be wise to purchase a larger can and thus change the overflowing trash situation once and for all. However, due to lack of sufficient thought put into this problem, no one did so.
Let me give an example a little closer to home that I think we all can relate to: the Belfer elevators. Anyone who has ever attempted to ride the elevator in Belfer Hall is well aware that there is a major flaw in their operation. If one enters the Belfer Hall lobby around 3 pm on a typical weekday, he will encounter a hoard of people waiting anxiously for any of the elevators to arrive in the lobby to take them to their desired floor in the building. This is where the problems begin. More often than not, one will find that all three elevators are somewhere on the upper floors of the building. When they eventually do come down, in many cases they are headed down to the basement instead of being ready to take people to the upper floors. This reveals a deeper problem; the basement, which houses the the mailroom for all students on campus and is only one floor below the lobby of a 16 floor building, can only be accessed by elevator. In addition to the logistical (and most likely algorithmic) difficulties, there are also mechanical problems, as quite often there is one (or more) elevators closed off due to an issue in its functioning.
Now, while it is pretty satisfying to get these frustrations off my chest, there is a particular reason why I have chosen to raise this issue here. This same person who is waiting interminably in the lobby in hopes that he won’t have to climb the thirteen flights of stairs to get to his class on time would be sure to note that the main topic of conversation of the people in the lobby is about this very frustration. Likewise, most of the small talk that I have heard from the diverse population of people who have joined me on my almost daily Belfer elevator rides has been about how broken the elevators are. Yet, nothing has changed about this system during my three years on campus to make it better, and I imagine that the problems began well before that.
The question is why is this so? Why do we accept this frustrating reality of broken and inefficient elevators, choosing to mutter under our breath rather than trying to make a change? If the collective population of elevator-users would band together and petition the university to make a new reality of convenient elevator travel, I believe there is a high likelihood that something would be done. But instead, we choose to accept the current reality, leading to unnecessary frustration and inefficient living.
What does any of this have to do with student council? In an initiative spearheaded by the Student Life Committee (SLC) and its proud leader, Jesse Silverman, the student councils released the first issue of our new monthly newsletter in November to the Wilf campus. This green double-sided information sheet outlines each council’s recent activities, as well as those of the SLC and the Office of Student Life. The idea behind creating the newsletter was first and foremost to keep students up to date on what new things are happening, but there was also something more that we hoped to accomplish with this shift towards greater transparency.
Often times, students have gripes about particular experiences here. These are the types of things that one can pick up on as he hears one of his peers passionately retelling a frustrating experience over lunch, or watches a disheartened student plod around campus. In addition, students often have creative ideas about how to make things better. Frustrations and ideas are good. It is important to recognize the areas that can be changed for the better. However, keeping these thoughts in the theoretical and not taking action towards making the change is resigning towards a lengthy wait for the elevator instead of addressing the issue head on.
The Wilf student councils wanted to inform the uptown student body of our actions to let them know that we are attempting to bridge this gap; we are looking for parts of the undergraduate experience that are left wanting and trying to take concrete steps towards making them better for everyone. The student council presidents, collectively and within their respective councils, attempt to represent the voice of the student body and to create change. Each student who attends the university pays a sizable student activities fee which is primarily given to the student government for this very purpose of making desired changes on campus. Our student newsletter, entitled Your Voice, is there to serve as a reminder of this mission for both your elected government members as well as for you, the Wilf student body. The best way to make the most out of your student government is by creating a relationship with it. Reach out and let us know about what needs to be changed. Work with us to create initiatives that will help the student body at large. See the broken aspects of the student experience, and use the resources available to you to fix them. We look forward to the next newsletter reflecting this joint effort of the student body with its dedicated representatives.
And hey, maybe we’ll even be able to get the elevators fixed.