A publicly unfamiliar ritual takes place once a week on the College campus. To the uninformed, casual observer, one might think it was a model U.N. practice meeting, or a participatory government class, such as “Procedures of U.S Congress.” If only it were so.
p. Each Tuesday night, the public is warmly welcomed to see the Student Assembly Senate in action, discussing bills of great importance with fruitless results. Many bills are simply destroyed because of irreconcilable minutia being discussed at length; other bills are passed with no intention of follow through simply because that is as far as they can go. Two questions immediately come to mind: Why, when there are so many issues on campus that have been explicitly defined, does the SA still manage to accomplish relatively little; and why does the SA Senate think it is Congress?
p. The questions answer each other in an analogous pattern similar to the SA’s own cyclical ineffectiveness. Twice a year, about 100 students get excited about campaigns, about 1,000 students vote and 4,000 go on with their lives, perfectly unaffected and unaware. They call it campaigning. After that, the successful go on to try and fulfill their promises, while the unfortunate quietly wait until their next chance, hopping on the train via the executive departments’ many opportunities for involvement. The two departments are supposed to work side-by-side in a very particular pattern: the senate produces bills, and the executive implements them.
p. Anyone involved in any capacity with the SA would understand the phrase “senate-executive divide.” The two branches have historically clashed, resulting in both a deflated sense of accomplishment in the SA and a general loss of faith from the campus community. Often times, it is because a disagreement in tactics for manifesting an idea in a practical way; other times, it is a lack of communication. Sadly, the most common reason for conflict is ownership of idea — whether the executive or the senate came up with the idea.
p. There has been a promise made this year to end the quibbling, internal issues of the SA. It may be too early to damn it or praise it, but it is never too late to create additional measures of change to the equation. Cliff Dunn ’09, running for a recently opened senate seat for his class, has the plan and the determination to solve one of the most intrinsic problems of the SA: the basic structure and process of gathering information from the community, accessing resources and producing plans that accurately address problems and create solutions.
p. How is he going to do this? Just ask him. Just because we elect the SA doesn’t make them congressmen. They do not need to use a U.N.-style bill to get their ideas across. The current process involves rhetoric-heavy “whereas” clauses followed by “resolves” which rarely go beyond recommendations, plea bargains and suggestions to the administration. The recent ISSFA Act, which clearly defined recent William and Mary Police tactics and procedures, goes no further than to “ask the police to stop.” This provides no actual back bone to a legitimate problem. Dunn’s answer is to have a four-part document for each idea: Part I: Problem, Part II: Solution, Part III: Community Resources, Part IV: Implementation.
p. It’s so simple, it just might work. Currently, the senate divides itself into committees that are supposed to fine-tune bills based on their overall criteria, such as public affairs, internal affairs, College policy and student life. Year round, senators sit on these committees and scan bills before they hit the floor. This adds unproductive hours to individual senators’ schedules, time that they could be meeting with appropriate correspondents in the administration and the community, while gathering resources and creating plans. Dunn’s answer is to have committees created with interest-based, as-needed conditions. Once a good bill comes to the floor, those interested in joining the team, as described in the bill, implement it to create a committee.
p. Dunn has an objective interest in the SA. He has run three times previously, and repeated defeat has not diminished his resolve to change a broken system. Now, as we approach the fifth year since the new SA constitution was established, the Class of 2009 has a chance to put someone in the senate who will not buy into the social perks and use his position for representation and action. Vote Cliff Dunn Sept. 27 on sin.wm.edu.
p. __Sean Sheppard, a former student at the College, held the senate seat for which Dunn is campaigning.__