Learning the ropes in the SA
November 10, 2009
Sen. Erik Houser ’10 joined the Student Assembly back in April after running his campaign on being a regular student unfamiliar with student government.
“I was a complete SA outsider, so it was interesting, once I was elected, to go in and see how everything was done,” Houser said. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anything about the Student Assembly at all. I guess what I found is that it is a group of people that, for the most part, really do care about the student body and effectively spending the money in the consolidated reserve.”
During his campaign, Houser pledged that he would put forth any student-submitted request to the SA. The only caveat was that it must benefit the student body. President of the Class of 2010 Aylssa Wallace ’10 sent out an e-mail to the student body which contained Houser’s solicitation for requests.
“There weren’t a bunch of responses,” Houser said. “The best idea I’ve had was from a senior, and that was to open [Earl Gregg Swem Library] for 24 hours during finals.”
Houser has spoken to William and Mary Chief of Police Don Challis and the Dean of College Libraries Connie Kearns McCarthy in relation to this effort.
“I am very confident that a solution will be found, and that this will happen this year during finals,” Houser said.
Another request from a student is far less likely to be implemented anytime soon.
“One request was for an additional terrace to supplement the Sadler Center terrace,” he said. “Whether it’s by Swem or in the Bryan Complex, I’ll be working on that for the rest of the year. That’s still in the planning stages. Nothing is even close to being certain on that yet.”
Not all of Houser’s efforts originated as student requests. He has also sponsored several SA bills and taken part in several movements on campus.
“I created the ‘Open Miller Hall for Everyone’ facebook group,” Houser said. “It’s a group of senators and others trying to advocate for this issue.”
According to Houser, most academic buildings remain open throughout the night for all students to use. Alan B. Miller Hall, however, closes to all non-business majors at 10 p.m.
“With every student paying $150 a semester, I believe it’s important that everyone gets equal access, since they pay equal money,” Houser said. “We lock very few halls on campus, and I believe it is unwise for the administration to lock Miller Hall to everyone else.”
Given that Houser had no prior student government experience, he had no idea what to expect.
“The biggest surprise to me was on how some senators are really reluctant to spend our money,” Houser said. “I find it hard to believe that they speak out against spending bills that don’t fit into their philosophy on how we should spend the money. I believe it’s silly to have a philosophy with the budget we have. We should be focusing on spending as much of the money as we can.”
Houser did not suggest that spending money was an easy endeavor.
“I don’t know how to spend the money of the Student Assembly yet,” Houser said. “It’s difficult to come up with ideas to try and spend the money, and I’m willing to take any ideas to help me do that.”
Earlier in the year, the SA passed a bill that distributed know-your-rights cards to all College of William and Mary students. Houser supported the bill, but believes the cards are, ultimately, never effective. Instead, he feels the student body should direct its energy to issues that directly affect students.
“I feel the best way for the Student Assembly to actually help the student body is to worry less about internal matters and focus on spending our bank account as much as possible and as effectively as possible.”
Houser spoke highly of the SA and the future ahead.
“Without any prior knowledge to speak of, I have been happy with the way things have been going this year,” Houser said. “I like that we have been spending a lot of money and taking an active role in advocating for student beliefs. I believe [Sarah Rojas ’10] has done a great job in the area of student rights.”