At the end of last block, Zac Schulman ’19 was elected as the new Colorado College Student Government Association president. Schulman is a neuroscience major with minors in molecular biology and biochemistry. He is also involved in the CC Political Consortium, as well as the founder of the Men’s Club Soccer Team. This week, The Catalyst sat down with Schulman to discuss his upcoming role in campus politics and his expectations for next year.
The Catalyst: When and why did you first consider running for CCSGA president?
Zac Schulman: I didn’t consider running really until maybe two blocks before the election, and I started to think about it because it’s such an interesting time to be at this school. It really feels like we are in the middle of a transition period, and I personally have grown very attached to the school and a lot of the people here. So, I wanted to be able to influence the direction that [the school] moves in because I think, like I said, it’s at a transition point where we could go one of two ways. The students seem to want to go one way while the administration another, and I think it’s important that the students have as much influence in the direction of the school as possible.
TC: Describe your campaign platform and how you plan to implement that into your term next year.
ZS: An essential component of my platform was highlighting the fact that things tend to fold very easily on this campus. What I mean by that is, there are a lot of great efforts to create change, however, a lot of them within four years—just because that’s how long students tend to be here—or less, will just sort of evaporate. And I think that one of the strongest assets of CCSGA is its continuity. You can be sure that every year CCSGA will exist and will be strong and enabling activists on campus. So, my idea was to partner with student groups who are passionate about issues on campus and outside of campus through CCSGA to make sure that those efforts endure beyond our time here because a lot of the issues that we’re trying to face can’t be solved in just a single year. It’s just that simple. And so, I think that being able to pass things down is really important, and creating structures that will endure is really important. To give a few examples of that, we see the divestment from fossil fuels movement going on, which is not the first ever to come about on this campus; however, it is the first in the last I think five years maybe? So now, the current movement is gaining a lot of traction, but I think it would be even more effective if the first one hadn’t folded in the first place, and if it had been sustained so that this one that came about within the last year or so didn’t have to go through that initiation process which takes away from their actual efforts to make change.
TC: What is your top priority for improving student life at CC once August 27 rolls around?
ZS: That’s a really difficult question because it’s impossible to say anything that doesn’t involve inclusion. It’s so obvious that the biggest problem that we have on this campus that students really are concerned about is inclusion and who gets to come here—once you’re here who gets to speak, and who gets the space, and who is comfortable being here—and that’s a really big complex issue. Again, one of those issues that just can’t be solved in a year, but I think that it is important to be aware of progress, like that there is such a thing as making progress in the realm of inclusion. I think that we could see that in a number of ways. It’s really exciting, and also nerve wracking, what’s going on with Blues and Shoes right now. That creates a really interesting opportunity for a group to put on an event that is considered to be more inclusive. I mean Blues and Shoes is one of those events on campus that creates a lot of controversy for being exclusive and pandering to predominately white people because mostly white people listen to and play bluegrass music. So now there is the opportunity for something else to come about, and that’s really exciting. I think it shows the natural evolution and progression of the place because people are starting to realize that things need to change in order for the place to change. So, I’m really hoping that there’s some sort of fruition there. Although, CCSGA is not going to put the event on itself, it needs to be a student group that steps up.
TC: What are you most excited and most afraid for as CCSGA President?
ZS: I mean there are the obvious ones like, you know sometimes at this campus it feels like we’re sitting on a knife’s edge, and anything could happen at any given moment, and just being able to respond in some sort of graceful way. I think that sometimes when really traumatic things happen on this campus, it at first seems like the most horrible thing that could have possibly happened, like this email and like things in the past, and it seems like the most horrible thing at the time, but then it can lead to a lot of change. And those moments tend to be the catalysts where people realize that something needs to be done. So, I guess with that being said, I’m most nervous that people will grow complacent again and not use this moment that we’re in, like the post email moment, as a catalyst to bring about change here. And I guess, I mean that goes right into what I’m most excited for, which is how open I think this campus is, both the students and the administration, to changing things. I think that people are really open to the idea of change, and student voices are being listened to now more than any other time that I’ve been here, as far as I can tell.
TC: On what is both your first day in office and the first-year class’s first day at CC, what is one piece of advice you would give them?
ZS: I would say, find something that you can do here or off-campus that roots you in reality because I think that being at CC for a year and then four years can be really claustrophobic at times, and it starts to begin to feel like we are not really living in the real world. So find something or someone that you can interact with that sort of grounds you. I wish I could do that better. Every once in a while, I’ll just be like, ‘holy sh*t, where have I been for the last two weeks!’
TC: As a soccer player, how do you see your experience with the sport intersecting with your role in student government?
ZS: Soccer is such a great sport for a reason that most people don’t realize, and that is that only at one point in the entire game can the coach talk to the players. Most other sports, the coach is constantly consulting with the players. Like basketball, you have all those timeouts and constantly subbing; soccer, there’s so much flow to it, and as a player you need to be really dynamic and levelheaded because if you’re not constantly in tune with the players around you, then there’s not that voice in your ear that’s telling you that what you need to be doing. It’s really on you. And it requires a lot of patience and a lot of social skills, actually. You need to know you know how everyone else is feeling and what kind of game they’re having or what type of player they are in order to really play into their skills.
TC: Who is the most influential faculty or staff member you’ve interacted with at CC?
ZS: Currently it’s probably Lori Driscoll. I take a bunch of classes with her and do research with her over the summer. I think that she is a phenomenal professor as well as a phenomenal person. It’s all too rare in the hard sciences that those two go together. She’s very willing to take a step back from science and talk about things that are real, and she’s very willing to admit that, you know, maybe science is not the best thing ever, and it doesn’t suit everyone and certainly doesn’t always lead to the most fulfilling lives. But in my first year here, it was definitely Eve Grace. She was my FYE professor, and I just found her to be the most brilliant person who understands the world at a level that I could never even imagine. And she was so wildly intelligent but at the same time very nurturing, so sometimes in class you’d be like ‘she’s too smart to even talk to.’ But then she would offer us chocolate because she’d bring back these big bowls of chocolate and be like, “you guys are so tired” and let us out of class early. So those two are awesome.
TC: If you had to look to a book for guidance, what would you choose?
ZS: OK. Probably Oliver Sacks, anything he has written. He was a neurologist who became famous in like the 80s, but he was more famous as a writer than as a scientist. There’s a movie about the time he spent as a neurologist at a psych ward in Massachusetts, where he’s played by Robin Williams. It’s called “Awakenings.” It’s an amazing, amazing movie. So, I guess I’m pulling two medias here because that movie is also phenomenal. He finds a way to treat these patients who are basically locked in their bodies, and he finds a way to treat them so they have these very brief resurrections where they’re all able to move. Before he was at the psych ward, everyone thought that they were just in a coma and they weren’t actually conscious, but he was like ‘No they have this locked body syndrome.’ And he treated them with the same drug that’s used to treat Parkinson’s. And it worked, but only momentarily. So, you see him—or Robin Williams—bringing them out of it, and then having to reconcile with the fact that they slip back into it. So, I don’t know if I would say that it’s guiding, but that’s really powerful. And I think that Oliver Sacks is guiding because he’s a really soothing presence, and he speaks so softly and is able to laugh at himself better than anyone I have ever really heard speak, and he writes in such a way that is so descriptive and detail oriented about things that no one had ever written in that way. So, he was famous for writing these really poetic stories about his patients. And about their lived experiences, like what it must be like to be a person who was an artist who lost their ability to see color, for example. That was something that had never really been done before. It really resonates because you can tell that he spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to be this other person. And he saw their disorders, whatever it was just, a different way of being, not really as illness.
TC: Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?
ZS: I’m torn because all of my family lives on Long Island, and I do have a pretty tight knit family. However, I really do love Colorado. So that’s really a question mark right now. I think eventually I’ll wind up back in New York, but I’d like to get to know Colorado a little bit better in the next few years.
TC: What has been one of your favorite/most memorable experiences at CC, either inside or outside the classroom?
ZS: Last year I drove to San Francisco and I was with three really good friends, who probably have too much personality to fit in that single car. So, we were driving to like all these super beautiful places. We started in New Mexico and drove to Arizona and Southern California and up to San Francisco and just making these really absurd stops along the way, eventually getting to San Francisco where we stayed at my family friend’s house. I had never been to California before, so it was nice to get there after anticipating the ocean the entire ride out there. It was like, all we wanted to do was to see the coast, and then finally getting there—I really liked San Francisco.