By Maddie Covino
First year students at Sciences Po’s Campus de Reims will cast their votes this Friday, October 13, for their student representatives. This year, there are eleven candidates competing for three student representative positions within the Euro-American program and five candidates competing for two student representative positions within the Euro-African program.
The student representative election is, in many ways, the first step first years take in shaping their own experience at Sciences Po. These representatives will advocate on their behalf to the administration and, in many instances, act as the face of their cohort. Yet, many a student is left drawing a blank when it comes to what the role of a student representative actually is. In addition to knowing the individual policies of the candidates running, it is equally important to know what duties and responsibilities the position entails.
Current second year student representative Benedetta Schiavon provided some insight into the role of a student representative and what types of issues the current candidates should be prepared to deal with if they are elected.
Benedetta was elected as representative in the middle of last year in a special election and has now served as student representative for a little less than one year. She views her role as one in which she is tasked with “representing the student body in front of the administration and voicing concerns.” But she also notes that the relationship goes both ways. Not only are student representatives representing the students to the administration, but also the administration to the students. She and her co-representatives are often tasked with conveying the position of the administration to the students and explaining why the administration can, or more often cannot, do certain things. Though of course, Benedetta stressed, a student representative’s primary duty lies with representing and advocating for the students, despite the large role mediation may play.
To give current first year students an idea as to what types of issues representatives will have to deal with, Benedetta described former and current topics that have been tackled by the student representatives. Last year, the major issue was the firing of Olivier Ruchet (something that was extremely controversial and garnered a strong reaction from many students). The representatives are currently working on a Mental Health Week initiative, something Benedetta largely credits her co-representative, Raphaella, with (Note: Raphaella listed improving mental health services as one of her main missions when running for student representative this time last year). On the administrative side of things, student representatives have dealt with the implementation of the academic reforms as well as the ever present issue of IPs.
Though some may question to effectiveness of the student representatives and wonder if their conversations with the administration can translate into concrete change, Benedetta wants to assure the student body that yes, what they are doing really helps. She noted that the work of the student representatives after the administrators somewhat randomly placed students in classes was the reason why “people had the opportunity to change afterwards” after the most recent round of IPs. She also pointed to student feedback and a request for more math classes that are open to second year students, which resulted in the representatives managing “to set up a class for next semester, either a new class or 2As will be able to join 1A math classes.”
Looking towards the future, new student representatives should first, be prepared to deal with the opening of the new campus. They will ultimately be responsible for conveying certain information regarding the opening as well as relaying student feedback on the new campus to the administration. Perhaps most importantly, though, will be managing the move of the Paris students to Reims next year and dealing with having three different programs on the same campus. Benedetta noted that “a better relationship with the Euraf student reps” will be key to ensuring the current Reims campus is united, something that will be particularly important when new students arrive. Although increased communication between Euraf and Euram representatives is also a general goal for this year.
The task of student representative ultimately must adapt to various circumstances and change to fit the needs of students. No one could have anticipated the firing of Professor Ruchet, and while campus construction and the reforms have been in the works for years, their implementation is no less of a challenge for the representatives. The decision first year students will make this week is an important one, and if history has proven anything, it is that the representatives often play a much larger role than most students initially anticipate. Vote wisely on Friday.
Photo: Facebook User Stew Dent Rep