This semester, I have dealt with the MU Student Senate on numerous occasions. Sadly, each time left me with more questions than answers. With issues such as lack of communication, unprofessionalism, personal vendettas that seem to cloud judgment and reports of backdoor dealings that don’t meet their own constitutional guidelines, one has to wonder whether student senate truly represents the student body in its entirety.
The first thing that has continuously left me baffled, is the clear lack of equal representation within the group itself. Within student Senate, you will be hard pressed to find each class year represented properly. With a clear majority in one way or another, how can a governing body claim to represent the student body if they do not have enough diversity to do so? If student senate wanted to fix this issue, it would be quite simple. Start by having a board of President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary for EACH class, add in 2 commuter representatives for each year, and a senior executive board to oversee the running of the organization. One of the most concerning facts is that there is only one commuter representative. With an on campus student total of 2,216 vs. 5,365 commuters, it would seem sensible to have equal representation of the larger student ratio. This could also be said of the one position that is available to represent Greek Life, Multicultural and Academics respectively.
Secondly, there is the issue of elections. The only part of student senate that is an elected body is the Executive Board. While this may seem like a step in the right direction, it is hindered by the fact that last election showed about 800 students (10% of our population). All other Senators are eligible simply by filling out the application, attending meetings and getting a simple 25 signatures. Furthermore, breakdown of representatives is filled by a strict “in house” vote. This process ensures election by the current senators, without input of the general student population. While this may seem like an easier process, is it truly fair to have in-house elections for 30+ representatives that are supposed to represent the near 8,000 students on our campus?
With this many representatives, you would assume that communication throughout campus is the top priority, right? This seems to be far from the truth. During correspondence with myself as well as numerous other students, it seems to be common practice to respond when it is most convenient for those in charge. With students waiting in upwards of one month for a simple response, one has to wonder exactly what it is that the Student Senate actually does. Is it not fair to assume that the reason for such apathy on behalf of our students is exacerbated by the air of superiority that we see from our “leaders”?
Being a student leader means that you represent the masses, not just your own interests. It means that you do whatever it takes to show the students that you are there for them. In my case, I got the exact opposite message. With denials for emergency funding, emails stating that students did not have the “option” to appeal decisions, contradictory reasoning for decisions reached, and overall lack of transparency, many students including myself fail to see why we should have faith in a system that acts as no more than an Aristocracy. The fact that a majority of students have no idea who their student senate members are should bring concern to those in charge, but it is clear that it does not. My advice is that if you want the respect of the students you lead, you might try by increasing your presence on campus, as well as your transparency in everything you do. Students have a right to know what decisions are being made “for them”, as well as the reason behind them. Finally, when times get hard, stand side by side with the students you represent rather than just sitting in the power chair and watching from a distance.