In Order to Form a More Perfect Union

By Abdullah Siddiki (EE ‘18)

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Pioneer as a whole.

On September 20, 2016, the Joint Student Council met in the Rose Auditorium to discuss and ratify a new JSC constitution. The meeting started with the authors of the new document, the Constitution Committee, going through the document point by point with the assembly for clarification. The actual content of the constitution was not up for contention until the document was entirely clear.

The rewritten constitution establishes several new principles by which the JSC will operate. Reading through the document you will see the framework for a body that operates on the principles of responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Most importantly though, the document redefines and states a clear goal: the purpose of Joint Student Council.

What does JSC do?
- “I don’t know”
- “Who cares?”
- “They don’t do anything”

Leading up to writing this article, I asked almost anyone and everyone I spoke to this week, “what does the Joint Student Council do?” The responses to this question were somewhat disheartening—a lot of “I don’t know” or “who cares” or my favorite one—“they don’t do anything.” I tried to prod them further to make sure they weren’t being dismissive, but most students truly don’t understand what the JSC is, what it does, and why it is important.

But whose fault is this? Is it the students’ for simply not caring? Is it the JSC’s for not making their purpose clear? Do members of the JSC even know what the body is for? Most likely the only time you heard about JSC in the past few years was when they passed a resolution to make the bathrooms gender neutral, or maybe when they pushed a petition to protest changes in the policy to charge for overloading credits. But these two courses of action seem so wildly different on the surface, so what is the purpose of the JSC? What do they do? Is it really nothing? It’s extremely important that we as a student body think about this and hold those representing us accountable to their responsibilities. One of the most important pillars of a successful and driven organization is a clear mission statement, and the JSC is no exception.

Printed below is the new mission statement outlined in the new JSC constitution. Read it carefully, pick apart every word, and ask questions. Make sure it is clear to you what it means to be represented as a student.

“The Joint Student Council maintains a platform for discussion and takes action in an effort to benefit the student body. In an attempt to manifest the will of the students, the Council hears divergent positions through deliberation, and consequently founds a coherent voice. The Council passes resolutions that pursue policy initiatives concerning the academic, social, and administrative interests of the students. Finally, the Council sustains clear dialogue with the community in the spirit of continued positive change to our institution.”

If you have never thought about it before, or thought about it and lost hope, no time is better than now to reconsider the importance of a representative body on campus. The refreshed mission statement makes it very clear that the JSC exists solely for our benefit as a student body. The JSC is a means for handling student issues and complaints, statements that need to be presented to the administration on behalf of the student body and school-wide changes that need to occur. Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.” I’ve heard that a lot from people whom I try to tell that JSC is important—and every single one of them has several complaints about the school. You can’t be here just to learn because it is the very nature of Cooper to be much more than a school. The Cooper Union is a community. It is my community, your community, our community. Invest in it. Take ownership of it. Make it the community you want it to be.

Their role is to make you heard. It’s time to abandon this thought of “I’m just here to learn.”

This is the power of JSC: to represent your interests to the school. And I’ve used this word “represent” a couple of times now, so let’s talk about representation. If you read the article in a previous issue regarding the ratification of the constitution, you will know that perhaps the only heavily contended point was the representation—ten students from Engineering, five from Art, and five from Architecture. What this really means is that there will one be representative per fifty artists, one per fifty engineers, and one per twenty-five architects. The reason that I want to present the representation this way is because it forces you to think about what—or rather whom—the JSC will be representing. The contention at the meeting was whether or not the JSC should have the same number of representatives from each school or representation proportional to the number of students. That’s just the surface of the dispute—let’s look at the core of it.

Should the JSC represent the schools or the students? By choosing to ratify a constitution that mandates representation proportional to the number of students in each school, the JSC has made itself a body representing student interests at the most basic level—your interests as a person. Issues that affect you have never been limited by your major. Tuition hikes, bathroom policies, the presidential search, are all issues that affect you on a personal level. There are already bodies in place to represent your academic interests. The Architecture, Art, and Engineering Student Councils exist. The new mission statement and representation policy of the JSC steers it in a direction where it will become a body that aims chiefly to do its best to represent issues of each student as a human—one with emotions, stresses, ambitions, and not as a label. You are a person before you are an engineer, artist, or architect.

At the meeting there was so much concern about the engineers coming together to block quorum or the artists and architects coming together to block quorum. But consider this: how many issues have been voted on that are representative of contending interests between schools? Call me naïve, or idealistic, but maybe it’s time to stop looking at each other as artists and architects and engineers before we look at each other as our classmates, friends, and at the most fundamental level—humans. Let’s jump this mental hurdle of divisions between the schools. We are of course the Cooper Union. Let’s use this new JSC mentality as a launching point to eradicate whatever prejudices we have amongst the schools and do what another famous constitution did as well—form a more perfect union. ◊

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