Incoming Diplomatic Congress Executive Board on goals, challenges for student governance in 2020-2021 academic year

By Alex Pinsk || Outgoing Editor-in-Chief

As the academic year comes to a close, it is important to reflect upon the experiences that we have shared and thank the individuals who have helped to make those experiences possible. Thanks to the 2019-2020 Executive Board of the Diplomatic Congress and all members of the Congress, Dip Con has continued to function over Zoom during these past couple of months in quarantine. Student governance has remained a vital part of our campus and of student life and the student experience. Many thanks to P. Griffin Sneath ‘20, President of the Student Body, Shubh Punj ‘21, Vice President of the Student Body, Zoey Pham ‘22, Treasurer, Will Kay ‘20, Parliamentarian, Adriana Dias ‘20, Communications Director, and Ayana Stuart ‘21 Executive Officer of Social Justice & Equity, for their hard work and commitment this year. 

Now it is time to welcome the new Diplomatic Congress Executive Board and to glimpse what is in store for student governance in the upcoming year. 

The incoming officers and their positions are as stated:

  • Shubh Punj ‘21, President of the Diplomatic Congress & the Student Body
  • Makaila Ranges ‘22, Vice President of the Diplomatic Congress & the Student Body
  • Zoey Pham ‘22, Treasurer
  • Ali Husaini ‘22, Parliamentarian
  • Amanda Leonard ‘22, Communications Director
  • TBD, Executive Officer, Social Justice & Equity

Officers for the 13th Diplomatic Congress will hold their positions for the 2020-2021 academic year. As newly elected and appointed members of the Congress, members of the Executive Board have a variety of goals and aspirations for advancements and changes to be made to systems of governance and to the student body. 

When asked about potential challenges that they perceive to be pertinent regarding student governance and how they plan to go about approaching these challenges, the new Exec Board touched on a few different key issues. Zoey Pham ‘22, incoming and outcoming Treasurer, highlighted that “transparency between difference groups on campus” is something that needs work. She explained that “many students feel that communication from the College has been inadequate and delayed. As an executive board, we hope to serve as a connection between the student body and the College, whereas our regular meetings with the Senior Staff and different bodies of the College will be utilized for conveying student concerns and working on tangible changes as a result.” Essentially communication needs to be stronger, and Dip Con intends to act as a legate in order to ensure that there is accurate and adequate communication to the student body.

Ali Husaini ‘22, incoming Parliamentarian, also expressed that it is vital to look to the best interests of the student body. Husaini explained that the Congress will work on “refining” the “committee system to best advocate for student needs on campus.” Husaini plans “to do that by working closely with committee chairs and incorporating a more hands-on approach in committees.” Student needs are at the heart of many of the challenges facing student governance. Makaila Ranges ‘22, incoming Vice President, explained that something exceedingly pertinent and something which needs to be addressed is the ever-present “gap between higher-income and low-income students.” Ranges believes that this gap will be more tangible than ever in light of COVID-19. “I think that as we face unprecedented potential financial issues as an institution. Low-income students run the risk of being neglected and under-resourced. When it comes to deciding what the fall will look like, low-income students will have fewer options about if they decide to take a gap semester,” explained Ranges. 

Both Amanda Leonard ‘22, incoming Communications Director, and Shubh Punj ‘21, incoming President and outgoing Vice President, expressed that the trajectory of COVID-19 and its impact on student life is perhaps the most pressing matter at hand. However, “being an F&M student has never been easy, and we have always risen up to the challenges before us. There is no doubt that we have what we need to overcome this crisis,” expressed Punj. 

All members of the Exec Board seem to be aware of potential challenges but are also ready to take on this new role. Leonard highlighted that in her role, she hopes “to use the Congress’s platforms to encourage students to self-advocate and participate in shared governance through the Dip Con infrastructure. I also want to be intentional about highlighting the work of organizations that became Agencies of the Congress over the last year, thereby emphasizing their status as critical actors in upholding the Congress’s core mission.” Leonard is committed to maintaining an organization which is communicative in itself and with its Agencies and also outwardly to the student body. All new members of Dip Con’s Executive Board expressed the importance of establishing and maintaining strong relationships within the Congress, committees, and agencies, and to work in collaboration with the student body in order to best understand the needs of individuals and of on-campus organizations. 

Pham and Punj explained that at this time, finances for groups will be particularly important. Punj highlighted the significance of “financial literacy,” and both individuals intend to continue to foster relationships with clubs and organizations on campus as well as with the Senior Staff in order to best advocate on behalf of students. Evidently, the finances of the College have suffered due to COVID-19 and with that, the Student Activities Fee cannot increase as planned. Thus there is a lot of conversation to be had about financial repercussions of the pandemic and how that is impacting student life and governance. 

Ranges highlights that COVID-19 has certainly been a challenge and one which will be approached by the Diplomatic Congress; however, “the issues from the fall semester still persist.” There is still a lot of discussion “that needs to be continued after the incidents that happened fall semester,” according to Ranges, and those do not simply disappear with the outbreak of a pandemic. These are still institutional problems that will remain until greater strides are made to combat them. 

The new Diplomatic Congress Executive Board is prepared to take on a new role on campus and is committed to contributing positively to the student experience. Punj remains “confident in the future of the Diplomatic Congress with the passion each of the members brings” and is working in order to ensure that the Congress runs as smoothly as possible even in these turbulent times. “I look forward to working with the diverse personalities we have on our board,” he says.

Members of the Exec Board have many other goals and aspirations for the upcoming academic year which they have expressed and are ready to act on in Fall of 2020. Needless to say, we have a group of strong leaders advocating for students and guiding the Diplomatic Congress through whatever challenges may arise in the future. 

Seal Courtesy of diplomatic.congress@fandm.edu

Senior Alex Pinsk is the Editor-in-Chief. Her email is mpinsk@fandm.edu

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