Even Student Association senators complain about the lack of respect the SA gets on campus. Why would anyone come to us with problems when they think we can’t do anything? What can the SA do besides fund student groups and create laws for itself? We’re a rather sad bunch, really.
After a few battles with the SA Executive about a budget and some in-fighting, we understand how unimportant we are and come to believe that things won’t ever change. And this happens before October. The truth is that when this discovery sets in, senators should be responsible enough to resign.
Recently the Senate passed a bill to improve relations between the Senate and SA Executive. Along with Josh Rothstein, I co-authored it during the impeachment debacle. Included in this bill was the provision that the SA president hold office hours to make herself available to both senators and the general public. The provision was strongly supported by members of the Senate as a way of opening up the SA. This week, however, a similar provision requiring office hours for Senate members was voted down with dramatic numbers. We must think we’re much more important than the SA Executive to employ such an obvious and obnoxious double standard. Virtually no graduate senators supported the bill, a few undergrads abstained and fewer undergrads voted in favor. This came after the bill had been watered down by the rules committee so that office hours weren’t required but simply encouraged.
Many graduate senators objected because they didn’t believe their constituencies would care about them being available. After all, what can a graduate senator really do for his or her constituency? And the requirement of two hours a week for office hours is way too much for a busy senator, isn’t it?
Now, I authored that bill, and I support office hours for senators. The truth is that unless senators start making themselves available and start taking initiative, things won’t ever change. This bill wasn’t only about office hours but about senators doing their jobs. And the truth is that if senators can’t give two hours a week for their constituencies, things won’t ever change. The SA will continue to be a do-nothing organization with its hands clenching the money purse.
It’s over for us, the SA Senate of 1999-2000. Our legacy, if such a thing is had by a Senate, will be impeachment. And we deserve it. But next year, it is my hope that the Senate will deserve much more.
Improving the Senate next year could be very simple but also very difficult. All the structural reform in the world won’t help. It’s all about energy and commitment. The Senate next year must never resign itself to campus perceptions of the SA. It must take the initiative to do things besides write legislation. Senators should have office hours, host town halls, run events, meet with administrators, be loud, obnoxious, visible and, most of all, responsible – responsible enough to be able to say at the end of their term, I earned every vote I was elected with.
-The writer, an SA senator, is a sophomore majoring in international affairs.