A senator speaks out

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March 27, 2007

2:05 PM

__Class of ’09 senator describes SA inefficiency before upcoming elections__

For the sake of clarity, this is a strongly opinionated article. Therefore, I want to clearly say that the motivation behind this exposition on the Student Assembly is for the purpose of exposition itself.

p. My name is Sean Sheppard, and I am one of four senators who represent the Class of 2009. I hold a few titles: secretary of the Student Life and the College Policy Committees and senate liaison for the Student Life Department. I miss a lot of committee meetings.

p. The ones that I go to, I rarely take minutes. According to The Flat Hat Senate Report Card, I am the fifth-ranked senator. Not to discredit their methods, but I have done relatively little on the floor to merit number five out of 16. I have co-sponsored a number of bills, but have done very, very little solo work. I guess it’s easy being number five.

Out of my entire year of servp. ice, the time I was most active was during campaigning. I witnessed first hand how much “students like stickers more than student empowerment.” We make stickers in the SA, we’re a rubber stamp with invisible ink, an ineffective recommendation process tied down with bureaucracy and completely directed by outside forces.

Our “representatives” are the main contributors to the misuse of an incredible resource that is a self-constituted, self-governed SA. The current structure of the SA advocates time-wasting and senseless organization of departments, committees and cabinets. It sounds like an exaggeration, but the group of people in the SA who actually do anything is limited to a handful out of the supposed 100 who claim it on their resumes and on their Facebook profiles.

p. The senate is in charge of $150,000 in consolidated reserves; it is the reason why we have some senate meetings that last three hours, two-thirds of which is spent debating the allocation of $680 for campus beautification, and the remaining one-third steamrolling a series of impractical bills.

p. Perhaps it is because of my half-involvement, but I feel that the entire SA is a secretive organization. Only the students directly involved and their close friends recognize what the SA is really doing. However, the relationship between the SA and the College’s administration is a strong one, but is based on total subservience; it is not conversational for the purpose of representation, but for implementation. Maybe that is why we are hiding.

p. The lack of communication between the student body and the SA has a direct correlation with one of the most fundamental bodies of student governance: the Department of Internal Affairs. Most of the bills in the senate are internal affairs bills, and the executive branch spends more time dealing with these bills than with those from any of the four other departments. Measures were taken to prevent internal affairs bills the second half of this semester, and the result has been an overwhelming lack of substantive legislation.

p. The departments of Student Life and College Policy are the two most important to the average student; these departments are supposed to be fostering a good social and academic atmosphere, working with the administration to solve problems like grade inflation, lack of social spaces, alcohol and substance abuse and so forth.

p. Before I finish, I’m going to hit the sensitive nerves that no one on our campus likes to talk about. Of the 16 undergraduate positions, we have one black and two female senators; 14 senators are government majors, none of the 16 are openly gay or bisexual. We can’t force underrepresented students to run for office.

p. The executive could appoint a less homogenous cabinet, and not make the politically correct move of appointing the only black member to the Department of Diversity Initiatives. Admittedly, the school is 80 percent white; that would require 12 white senators for accurate representation. But it is also 55 percent female. Where are the eight female senators?

p. This sort of criticism is hasty and one-sided. It is meant to fulfill an agenda of sensationalism. As elected representatives, we do have a responsibility that has not yet been defined by the actions of our predecessors. I am sorry for not representing the Class of 2009 as I was supposed to.

p. Apathy is not real to the individual; apathy is a condition of the masses, and each day that you act with reason and intention, apathy loses strength in the collective sense. Direct some of your time and energy to this community at the College, and you may find that there are some incredible resources to be had and utilized. On March 29, cast your SA vote wisely and demand something for your commitment.

p. __Sean Sheppard, a sophomore at the College, is a Student Assembly senator. He is running for reelection.__

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