Clarkie of the Week: Cory Bisbee
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Cory Bisbee (‘19) was born in Seoul, South Korea but grew up in Montgomery, Mass. He sat down with The Scarlet to discuss Clark, Student Council, and his phone.
Scarlet: Why did you come to Clark?
Cory: On one hand, I think it’s Clark University’s people. Clarkies are very genuine, and they’re very compassionate and I think that is something that sets them apart from people at other Universities. At the same time, I like Clark University because of its commitment to the community. I think you see that in the University Park Partnership and the work that the University has done with the Main South CDC, and what happens in the schools around Clark University.
Scarlet: You are the President of Student Council. Why did you first get involved?
Cory:On the one hand one of the things I value most is loyalty. I want to do the most that I can, and I feel like one of the ways I can do a great deal is through student government, because I feel that student government, it usually does not operate at the highest level functionally, and so I feel like it is somewhere that I can get involved and do a lot and potentially achieve a lot. At the same time, I feel like student government has the instruments at its disposal where if it was used correctly you could achieve a lot, and so I think merging those two things together it’s the place that I can potentially do the most good.
Scarlet:Some people say there is a disconnect between the student body and student council. Do you agree with this?
Cory: It’s something that I’m well aware of. I think it is clear to everyone. Something that did very clearly demonstrate it to me early on when I came to Clark, was when there was the forum on race, and a lot of people came out and [voiced their complaints] with the University. Nobody at all, and I was there for the whole thing, mentioned student council. Nobody will say, “we should go to the student government and bring up these concerns,” nobody will say, and this part even disappoints me, nobody will say, “the student government is doing a bad job.” And I wish that people would say, “the student government is doing a bad job,” or “the student government isn’t doing their job,” or something like that, but it’s just not on people’s radar and it’s not in their consciousness.
Scarlet: Is this non-interest in student council hurtful?
Cory: Yes, and part of that is because it encourages people to be disengaged from student government, which makes student government less representative, less democratic, makes elections less competitive, [and] we end up with more people who are less committed. More people who are, frankly speaking, rent seekers, who are just seeking something to put on their resume, or, who want to come into a meeting once a week and just talk at one another, which are not particularly useful things.
Scarlet: Is that what your experience has been like?
Cory: I would say in general, student government will have a fair number of rent seekers regardless of where it is. Honestly speaking, because that’s just the nature of student government. Because one of the other alternatives is to have people who are genuinely committed to student government, and want to do good things, but that’s rare to me because student government naturally tends to require a lot more from you than you’re ever going to get out of it… It’s a volunteer position, you can go into student government and say nothing is ever going to come out of this, we are going to hand out funding to some people, ten years from now I’m going to look back and ask ‘what was I doing with my life?’ And so it’s really hard to find those people who, aren’t insane, but like, well meaning and somewhat misguided enough [LAUGHS] to get involved with student government.
Scarlet: There has been a lot of turnover on student government between this year and last year. Why is that?
Cory: I think there was a lot of turnover on student government last year because the general climate in our student government last year was horrible. There was a lot of partisan discord within our student government. You had a lot of ambitious people last year, and you had a lot of people who were highly opinionated, and I think those things just sort of conspired together to create a sort of poisonous environment within our student government, which really got progressively worse… I think that was part of the turnover you saw last year, in terms of like the number of resignations from student council. This year, you do see a fair amount of representatives who chose not to run again. And I think part of that is probably from the almost remaining trauma from last year’s experience. And I think last year’s experience too, for some of our more experienced senior members, might have really just underscored the fact that student government doesn’t really give you a lot back, so I think these people just going into their junior or senior years just kind of reevaluated and said, “what am I getting out of this? What am I really achieving here? Is it worth my time?” and I think those are the questions a number of people have asked and they came out of it deciding not to run again. That’s perfectly fine, but it did leave us in somewhat of an awkward position because of the knowledge drain you get from that. Also though, too, it did give us the opportunity to have new people come in who did have different views about how things could run, which I think has been helpful in some ways, so at the end of the day it’s kind of a give and take.
Scarlet: What do you get out of being President?
Cory: Honestly speaking, a lot of headaches [LAUGHS]. I think a lot of people don’t really understand what being involved in student government, especially being involved with student government on say the executive board or as the undergraduate student president really means. That was exemplified by the number of people who ran for president last year. Again, I think it is a thing that a number of people think of as a thing to put on your resume or a grad school application or something like that, or they see it as prestigious, or they see it as you getting power or something like that. In reality, the amount of time you have to put into the job, especially the executive board level or above, hurts your GPA and takes away from time you could be doing, say, work-study, for example, it takes much more away from that than you are ever going to get in return from a title thrown out somewhere. It’s not prestigious, most people at this university or at any university could care less about student government. And that’s the way it’s probably always going to be, at least to some extent. And at the same time too it’s not all that powerful, especially in our student government, the way that it’s set up right now. So, for me, what I get out of it, I don’t know I feel like at the end of the day. Loyalty is a very important thing, loyalty to a group, and to me Clark University is the group, and so I want to do what I can for the group.
Scarlet: I’ve heard you lost your gavel this year. Is this true?
Cory: We didn’t lose it. So this is a really fun story. The prior president, Kevin [Kim (‘16)], when he came into office, I think the gavel had been lost or stolen or something like that. So he, with his own money, bought a gavel and had his name engraved into it. When Kevin graduated, naturally, he took the gavel with him; we weren’t going to have a Kevin Kim gavel at our meetings. I said that I would prefer for us to not buy another gavel, because I’m in [Model UN] and I run our conferences and I know what they cost, and to me even though it’s not a ridiculous amount, it’s the student body’s money. At the end of last year too they also bought a plaque engraved with all the names of the members of our student government and to me, again, wasted the student body’s money. Essentially it is just a participation award or a pat on the back, for probably one of our worst years ever. To me, it was not quite worth the money and I feel like I can just use something else to get attention in the meetings, a gavel is honestly something that does not need to be used frequently in order to get control, it’s something you can ceremoniously use at the beginning and the end of the meeting… I felt like if anything I could get a coffee mug and it would be fine. But the other members of the executive board insisted that we needed a gavel, and so the executive board voted, and so in majority the executive board decided against my wishes to spend the student body’s money on a gavel. So they bought a gavel, and I told them another reason why I would be against the decision is because it’s probably going to get stolen. Our office is used by a number of different people, and I’m not concerned about our representatives stealing it, but a lot of representatives might use our office for a committee meeting and then people start to filter out and… the room ends up getting left unlocked. So the gavel in my mind was probably going to get stolen, and that’s what happened to the one before Kevin Kim came in and bought his. One of the things when they did finally get it was, “oh you should just carry it around with you,” but I’m not going to spend my time babysitting a gavel, that’s just not going to be a thing… and presumably this gavel was stolen. So that’s why we don’t have a gavel.
Scarlet: Are you going to get another one?
Cory: No. If I can avoid it, because I felt like it would be very silly for me to have to veto a proposal from my own executive board to buy a gavel, and so I said I’m just gonna let democracy do it’s work here. Now though I’m going to have to see what happens. I hope they learned their lesson, because they haven’t put up the plaque that they bought, thankfully, I think our secretary is just carrying that around with him. I’m not too concerned that they will try to buy another gavel but if they do I will try to shut that down.
Scarlet: So you have a phone but cannot use it to call or text. Can you explain that?
Cory: My parents insist that I have a phone, because when I do need to go back home they will pick me up. But they insist that I have a phone so that when they arrive at the University they can call me and say, “alright, we’re here,” and then I go down and leave. I use that phone, as a result, maybe two times a year. So I got an unlocked [and] really cheap Motorola phone. The phone itself is horrible, the operating system lags terribly, and it often will just lock me out so I can’t use the phone at all. It also has a terrible battery; it’ll just die after an hour, I don’t know why, it get’s really really hot and then dies. On top of that, I got the cheapest possible, not even service provider but one of those cheap things you can get, and it costs me like ten dollars a month, so I pay like sixty dollars per call. Because it is such a cheap thing I don’t really have good service so more often than not I won’t get calls, with some exceptions, like you have to call me a few times, but I generally keep the volume off. On top of that, text messages do not work with this service, it’ll send them to me days after they are sent, and then from there it will repeatedly send them to me once an hour. So it’s just utterly useless, it’s absolutely useless.
Scarlet: If you were a sandwich what sandwich would you be?
Cory: I don’t want to overthink this because that’s my natural predisposition. I would probably say a peanut butter sandwich because those were the bane of my existence in childhood. Those are what I ate a fair amount during elementary school, it’s cheap, simple to make. It’s fitting for college life in that respect.
Thanks for the interview Cory!