OP-ED: My Letter of Resignation from ASWC

Ari Louie, Former ASWC Sophomore Senator and Senate Educator

I resigned from ASWC and my letter of resignation is below. I am sharing it here because I believe that transparency is important to the integrity of our student government; ASWC did not publish my letter or any notification of my resignation.

Dear Senate and Students,

I am writing to you because I am resigning from ASWC, and you deserve some explanation about why I’m making this decision and what you can expect from me moving forward. Last week something prompted me to really consider why I am a part of ASWC.

I realized that I am doing nothing for my constituents and nothing for myself in my role as a senator; in fact, I am being dishonest to the student body by holding a position labeled “representative” in an organization that only represents and supports the people who already have power and voice at Whitman. No matter how vocal I am, ASWC is not set up in a way that allows my voice (and therefore the voices of my constituents) to be considered and reflected in the actions taken by ASWC.

In my role as a senate educator, I have worked hard to support the individuals of ASWC in their work to create both a better student government and a better Whitman. My work, however, has been ineffective because my job was not actually to help people become leaders and change makers; in reality, my job was to teach new senators how to be complicit parts of a broken, fundamentally non-inclusive, non-equitable system.

You might respond to all of this arguing that by leaving ASWC, I am making things even worse; that if I were truly dedicated to speaking up for people whose voices aren’t acknowledged, if I truly cared about making Whitman more diverse, inclusive and equitable, I would stay in and fix the problems. Unfortunately, my time in ASWC has demonstrated that this argument is not true. Nothing about my role in ASWC gives me any more power to make a difference at Whitman than I have as an individual student. ASWC will take a certain path, with or without my presence and voice, because it is a structure that is entrenched in a history and culture of authority and prejudice. It is, therefore, incompatible with change that could contradict that history and culture.

My last piece of advice as your senate educator is to fundamentally question what YOU are doing as a part of ASWC that you couldn’t be doing more effectively outside of it. I don’t mean this as an accusation that you aren’t doing enough as a representative; I know that ASWC isn’t structured to promote projects outside of the typical, predetermined, institutional agenda. In fact, I believe that all of you are dedicated to improving Whitman in some way, and I encourage you to question how ASWC serves your vision for Whitman. I remind you, however, that you don’t need to be a part of ASWC to form a group that works on a project. You don’t even need to be a part of ASWC to write legislation for ASWC. You don’t need to be a part of ASWC to show up to ASWC meetings and events. You don’t need to be a part of ASWC to get funds for projects or conferences. You don’t need to be a part of ASWC to have a voice that counts.

Do you feel represented and supported by ASWC? If not, you do not have a duty to serve a structure that doesn’t serve you.

By not being a senator or senate educator, I maintain the same voice I have always had as a human and student, but I have a lot more time on my hands to dedicate to doing meaningful work. I admire each of you as friends so I will continue to support any of you who would like my input on things. I have my criticisms of ASWC, but I want it to be better. If I can help you from the outside, I am willing to do so. Ultimately, we all share hope and visions for what Whitman can be. Although I am resigning from my role in ASWC, I continue to be committed to work that creates an inclusive, equitable, diverse and accessible Whitman. This means working together, listening to each other and being open to change, even if it is intimidating.

For me, this is an exciting new beginning; I look forward to seeing how we all attack apathy and the status quo as we determine the future of our college. History has its eyes on us.