There is something that the Student Association Senate of recent years and 17th century philosopher René Descartes have in common: both spent most of their time trying to justify their own existence. But for the SA Senate, the mantra “I think; therefore I am” won’t do it. They need to do a lot more than simply think to justify their existence.
Compared to their uninspiring performance last year, the SA has been relatively motivated so far this semester. The senate seems to be making some strides in the right direction this year, but they need to either keep the focus on student advocacy or resign themselves to the theme of self-obsession that has come to surround the organization.
Executive Vice President Jason Lifton called a meeting earlier this semester asking student senators to brainstorm ideas that would directly benefit their constituency. The result of the meeting was a collection of ideas that the senate believes need to be addressed.
While this sort of initiative is a positive step for a student organization often accused of inaction, we have yet to see the kind of follow-up that will directly affect students. It is time for the student senators to take on these and additional issues. The suggestions made at the meeting need to be evaluated and then delegated among the members of the senate. From that point, the onus will be on individual senators to see their initiatives come to fruition.
On the other hand, the senate has taken some discouraging measures concerning a new constitution. Internal proceedings and rule changes have long been a detrimental obsession of the organization. The SA Constitution Task Force is an example of such a waste of energy. Formed shortly after last year’s failed attempt to rush a new constitution through legislation, the task force is demonstrative of the misdirected efforts of a body that has often failed to be student-oriented. The town hall meeting held to discuss the new constitution was attended by only one person not affiliated with the SA or student media, demonstrating a clear lack of general student interest in this initiative.
The new constitution will make few, if any, necessary changes toward making the body more effective. Taking the responsibility of running the senate away from the executive vice president after fairly successful tenures by the past few EVPs seems arbitrary, and leaves the new role of the EVP ambiguous. It is hard to see how changing the status of freshmen representatives will necessarily make them more effective in their roles. Finally, making the rules easier to amend will probably result in more of the same introverted focus that detracts from student-oriented projects.
The time and effort used to propose a new constitution would have been better spent on changes that would directly affect the general student body. With Lifton putting pressure on the senate to cultivate new ideas and raise pertinent issues, we hopefully will not see this kind of wasted energy in the future. Now the focus needs to shift from coming up with initiatives to actually seeing them achieved.
In 1637, Descartes wrote, “It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.” The SA should take the advice and put their mind to use.
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