By now August’s enthusiasm has long faded, and the snooze button has become about as tempting as it ever will be. At about this time every year we notice that this mid-semester lull has a dreadful side effect: Student Assembly apathy. This is when students start to lose touch with their elected representatives, who then have the option of running amuck with impunity. This year, we ask the student body to allocate its energy to assiduous apathy avoidance; after all, it has everything to gain by doing so.
The SA is important. It has a large budget and a singular purpose: to work to improve students’ experiences. To this end, it recently passed a bill to make sexually transmitted infection testing free for students, took steps to improve the parking situation on campus and fought for students’ housing rights. Without a doubt, this organization can do good things.
But it doesn’t have to. In fact, it doesn’t have to do anything at all. By far, the largest complaint about the SA we hear is that it is a club for government majors filled with do-nothing resume builders. We do not accept this characterization, but without a doubt there are times the outfit underwhelms. And generally, these times coincide with those when students are most apathetic about what the SA is doing with its time and our money.
Going forward, it is important to view SA accountability as a two-way street. Of course, senators and members of the Executive should be expected to do their jobs, but we students should also be expected to keep an eye on them. Little things, like attending the occasional SA meeting or simply reading coverage produced by the fourth Estate, will go a long way in ensuring the SA is acting responsibly and in accordance with student needs. For those who are interested in getting more involved, Erik Houser ’10 has pledged to propose any bill students give to him. Why not consider trying out the legislative process first hand?
For its part, the SA should do much better in effectively communicating with students. During their campaign last year, Sarah Rojas ’10 and Ryan Ruzic J.D. ’11 said they would produce weekly YouTube videos that would make the plans and progress of the SA accessible to students. They also promised to send permanent envoys to student groups on campus in order to facilitate better access to SA funds. While the two have worked hard since being elected, as of yet, both of these promises are unfulfilled.
They may call it “Your Student Assembly,” but is it really yours? While the SA has the capability to do good on this campus, if students do not care, they will get nothing more than the little they demand.
And while we’re at it, please register to vote by this Monday. We have seen what apathy can do on the small scale, and these lessons absolutely apply on a large one as well. While the SA’s $180,000 reserve may seem considerable, it is decidedly smaller than the amounts for which the Gov. of Virginia is responsible. Let’s keep an eye on him and put ourselves in a better position in Williamsburg when the local elections roll around this spring by registering to vote.