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The editors of The Sojourn, the official campus newspaper of my alma mater, Indiana Wesleyan University, recently published an open letter to Student Government Association President Aaron Morrison regarding his alleged involvement in the “Occupy Wildcat” movement.

Here is my response to the editors of the Sojourn.

Dear editors,

I am a former student body president at Indiana Wesleyan University.

I graduated from IWU in 2002 and in many ways never left. I became an active alumnus, a financial contributor, and have visited campus frequently to meet with students and administrative officials. I have even served as a past Chairman of the President’s Advisory Council for Excellence and have attended meetings of the Board of Trustees.

Twitter has become one of my favorite ways to stay connected to my alma mater. Twitter personalities like @AvgIWUStudent give me an unfiltered, un-sanctioned view of what’s happening on campus.

I’ve been following @iwusojourn for some time now.

My appetite for the un-official message is what led me to begin following @OccupyWildcat almost as soon as that account was launched.

You recently issued an open letter to Student Government Association President Aaron Morrison regarding his alleged connection to the Occupy Wildcat movement.

I have sent direct messages through Twitter to @OccupyWildcat attempting to verify whether the owner of this account is in fact SGA President Aaron Morrison. I received a message back: “No this is not the SGA prez. I am a student with no ties to SGA.”

Is that true?

I don’t care.

It’s not the President of the Student Government Associations’s involvement or alleged involvement in the Occupy Wildcat Movement that concerns me.

What concerns me is your view of the role of Student Government and the responsibility of the student body president.

Isn’t it the role of student government to look out for the interest of fellow students?

I’ve been alarmed by several student government administrations, both preceding and following mine, which I have viewed as being cozy with university powers.

The role of student government is not to be an arm or communications tool for the university administration.

Serving in student government is not about building your resume or getting a good letter of recommendation from a high ranking university official who you greased the tracks for with your student peers.

The role of student government is to advocate for your peers.

I am not suggesting a confrontational approach with university officials.

Many administrators remain at IWU today who were there when I served as student body president. I doubt there are many (although I am sure there are a few) who would define my approach as confrontational.

I had good, warm, working relationships with almost all university administrators. Dr. Todd Voss, who was then Vice President for Student Development, was my personal mentor. We had lunch every Thursday for two years.

But my objective wasn’t to get cozy with these administrators.

My objective was not to get talking points from administrative officials and then communicate them to my peers.

My objective was to communicate the concerns and problems my student peers were dealing with to the administration, and to figure out a way to come up with solutions.

What concerns me about your open letter to SGA Presidnet Aaron Morrison is that it implies his role is not primarily to advocate for student interests.

In your reasoning against President Arron Morrison’s involvement or alleged involvement in the “Occupy Wildcat” movement you state:

“Your position as acting president of the Student Government Association is a representative role and is, therefore, indivisible from your personal life. Political activism outside SGA’s formal functioning should be seen as unitary with your work as president.”

What is the formal function of SGA?

Is it not to represent the student body?

Is the university’s relationship with Pioneer an issue for the student body?

When I served as student body president the issue my friends talked with me about the most was their meal plan.

Are you suggesting the president forgo activism that advocates on behalf of his peers in order to tend to official SGA functions like Senate meetings and ribbon cuttings?

You also claim:

“It is unacceptable to promote that which is “not an official SGA event” on official SGA media platforms, as you did on the SGA blog, providing a link to the “Occupy Wildcat” Facebook page”

Again, it is the role of student government to advocate on behalf of students. Therefore, every event that includes an interest of utmost importance to students is an event that the student body president would be interested in.

You also state that the president has no well thought out list of grievances and that other “less spectacular” means of communication have not been exhausted.

I’m not on campus today. But I know that the student body as a whole has a well thought out list of grievances. I know it’s about all anyone talks about at McConn or when you are heading to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy God knows what.

The editors of Sojourn know what the grievances are too.

And I’m not necessarily interest in the student body president using “less spectacular” means. I want a student body president who will champion the cause of his student peers.

Your final point:

“Branding your protest “Occupy Wildcat” is unfortunate, in light of recent world events. Other protests in the “Occupy” movement have resulted in injury, loss of life, political unrest and property damage worldwide. “Occupy Wildcat” seems petty in comparison to the movement at large.”

That’s just, well, petty.

Don’t you get it?

“Occupy Wildcat” is a marketing schtick.

People understand “Occupy Wall Street” as a movement of people who are are mad at the financial institutions in this country. I think it’s easy enough to understand that “Occupy Wildcat” is a group of people who are mad about the way food service and food service pricing works at IWU.

I haven’t been on campus for a year and live 2,000 miles away. I knew what “Occupy Wildcat” implied as soon as I saw the term. I sure would hope the editors of The Sojourn knew what “Occupy Wildcat” implied.

Is the man behind “Occupy Wildcat” in fact SGA President Aaron Morrison?

I don’t know.

I hope so.

That would mean IWU had a student body president who was looking out for the interest of his student peers. It’d mean that IWU had a student body president who was more interested in helping better the lives of the people he goes to class with than the administrator he hopes to get a letter of recommendation from.

Your “Open Letter to Aaron Morrison” gives me the feeling you’re more interested in the letter of recommendation.

Sincerely,
Clark Vandventer
IWU Student Body President 2000-2001

8 Responses so far.

  1. steph says:

    Well said clark! As someone who voted for you and was athe student rep in your “administration” I always felt that you had our, the students, best interests in mind. I always felt that you were someone I could share my concerns with and you would do something about them….even if it was “just conveying them to the proper people” (which I think is a vital role, however many view as not important). You were continuously moved to action and were well respected by students and administration alike. I believe your time with SGA was a successful and influential time at IWU, one in which I wish otherwise would look to as an example. Many things have changed over the years at Isi since our time there, but one thing remains the same….that’s is a huge need for our students to be represented by students who genuinely care about the student body and who put their interests first. If Aaron is behind OccupyWildcaf more power do him! My question though is do the students know he’s for them 100% without the cover of twitter. If he is not a part of this “movement” my question stands at is he 100%same for the students and if he is, but the student body does not see this, how can he change that.

    I know you love IWU and have been involved heavily since you left. I also know you have a lot on your plate, but I think you have so much to offer the SGA students. I would encourage you to be directly involved with them. You gave a wealth of knowledge that I think the IWU campus could greatly benefit from. It would be great to see some sort of relationship there. Maybe a mentorship or leaderships weekends where you come and help train our leaders. Just thoughts, but I truly appreciate your heart and love for IWU, its students, and its government and I think someone with your passion needs to be put to good use! :)

  2. steph says:

    My above post is a great example of why one should not post from their phone. Please don’t focus on the spelling/grammatical errors, but instead focus on the content of my message :)

  3. Clark says:

    Thanks, Steph. That’s nice of you to say. I agree with you that if Aaron is involved with the movement that he should be openly involved. If the SGA President is going to error, he should error on the side of fighting for his peers who he represents.

  4. Stephen C says:

    Well put, Clark. Your response encapsulates my reaction to the Sojourn’s note.

    As a recent, former Student Government president, I commend Aaron for the courage of his stand, and for articulating specific situations where students were affected but not consulted (see link below). Students are adults, and students have the ability to understand and make difficult decisions. I’m proud that Aaron is publicly taking responsibility to be the voice of the students.

    For Clark’s other readers– I don’t know if you’ll be able to read Aaron’s full facebook post, but here is a link:
    http://www.facebook.com/notes/aaron-morrison/why-i-am-occupying-wildcat/10150434009948523

  5. Chuck says:

    Consider your blog re-posted on facebook… linked to it and all. Good perspective! Thank you for keeping tabs on us IWU-ers.

  6. Rachel says:

    THIS WAS GREAT!! I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thanks for posting this!