Melissa Miller: Hold student senators accountable

If you’ve ever watched C-SPAN, you’ve probably noticed just how many empty seats there are in Congress.

And it seems like the apathy and problems of Washington have rubbed off on our very own Student Association senators.

Last week, the SA Senate reported an average of four to nine absences per meeting among its 38 members. And as a result, SA Senate President Pro Tempore Michael Amesquita introduced a bill requiring senators to attend a minimum of 60 percent of meetings.

Is it really that hard to show up to a meeting once every two weeks? You would think those elected would be excited to represent their fellow students. You would think they’d be doing all they could to help improve GW, especially after a spring campaign season filled with promises. But apparently that’s not the case.

As students, we have every right to be angry that our student leaders have failed to live up to the responsibilities of their jobs. The bare minimum is actually showing up, and if they can’t handle that, they shouldn’t have run in the first place.

The SA's absences also make the organization less efficient. SA rules require 50 percent of the senators to be present to reach a quorum. If enough people are no-shows, they can't go on.

If student leaders cannot attend the majority of Senate meetings, they should resign or be forced to step down.

It’s the job of SA senators to represent the needs of the student body and to pass legislation that will benefit the lives of their constituents. The SA should be a place for people who can actually commit their time and energy to benefitting the students they are charged with representing – not those who simply want to use their title as a line on their resume.

We shouldn’t need a rule to force senators to go to 60 percent of their meetings. They should already be there, no questions asked.

The bill passed. But who knows if it will matter? Leadership isn’t something you can teach, and there's only so much you can do to coax people into working harder.

This bill may force members of the Senate to attend. But if they weren't even showing up before, you can probably bet they aren't doing their jobs outside of meetings either. And a bill likely won't give them any incentive to actually work on legislation or to meet with administrators to find out how to better serve students.

Every year, it seems there is some controversy over why the Senate doesn’t pass more legislation. Last year, former SA President John Richardson actually confronted the senators about their apathy.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember last spring when students campaigned for the SA? Between passing out leaflets, dorm-storming and obsessively posting about the election on Facebook, hundreds of students became invested in student leadership at GW. Yet by the end of the first semester, all the enthusiasm and excitement from last spring's election season is a distant memory.

We go to GW to study how to fix Washington’s problems – not to emulate its shoddy practices.

Melissa Miller is a sophomore majoring in international affairs.

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