Throughout my entire college career I have served the Student Association and the greater student body by spending countless hours in meetings, planning initiatives, attending events and conducting a list of other activities so long I can’t even begin to list them. I believed in the SA – I knew it was not perfect, and I certainly did not believe I could make it so. I knew, however, that with a lot of work, we could do better.
I do not consider myself to be an idealist, but rather realistically optimistic. Through a few tumultuous and hard years, scandal and an inability to achieve results for students – the preeminent goal of any student association – have marked the SA. I knew things could not completely change in a year, but after working closely with President Woodard, his staff and Executive Vice President Dembling throughout the summer here in D.C., I came to believe that the Student Association had definitely turned a corner. I saw President Woodard and EVP Dembling working closely together to achieve tangible improvements for students. There seemed to be a new era of cooperation and dedication to service unlike any in recent memory.
Yet in the past two weeks, I have witnessed Student Association Senators put their own political ambitions above the interests of students. I have watched senators interpret our governing documents to allow them unfettered access to investigate student organizations without just cause. They argue that they strive for achievements to improve the University for students, but instead their interpretations of our bylaws are complicating things for student groups. I have watched senators get so wrapped up in debates about what went wrong in the past that they forget to focus on the future. I expected this senate to include senators who are more concerned with actually doing something to address students’ needs rather than making students’ and student group’s lives harder.
I know the Student Association cannot make dramatic changes over the course of one year, but they should have started the process. Have senators taken steps to help student organizations get more money without having to continually apply for co-sponsorships? Have senators thought about ways to fix the housing selection process or contacted those in the University who oversee it? Have senators lobbied academic departments to release their internal professor reviews, so students can better judge what classes to take? Have senators begun to address the unfairness and chaos in our class registration process?
The answer across the board is a resounding no, with no attempts to even begin to tackle such important and worthwhile causes. Instead, they have focused on ways to improve their political campaigns. They have concentrated on trying to find ways to cut student groups’ budgets. They have centered on “reform” without any understanding of the process and how to actually reform it. If you want to reform the Student Association and make it a body that represents student needs, and if you want to really create some lasting changes, this is not the way to go about it.
Members of the SA need to remember why they wanted to get involved – and what their obligations to the student body are. You are there to make the funding of student groups easier; you are there to make the changes that actually matter. You are not there to improve your own resume or to advance your own political career. Stop thinking that you are more important than you are – and just help students.
-The writer, a sophomore, is the Student Association Senate chief-of-staff.