Senate should scrutinize its own efficiency, relevance, not just CAB’s

Kevin OleksyThe Student Senate recently floated the idea that CAB needs an overhaul where efficiency and senate interactions are concerned.

Some tweaks and revamps have been proposed but not widely discussed. Nobody is quite sure what the perceived problems are, or why we might be working to fix something that—although often boring—is not broken.

CAB should not meet less frequently or merge with Senate. Instead, it should take the place of Senate as the governing organization and “voice” of the student body.

CAB is a more democratic, open and direct form of student representation than the Student Senate.

By virtue of requiring participation from every sanctioned club or organization on campus, CAB is composed of a more varied cross-section of the types of students, and is representative of their interests.

Also, CAB cannot move into an “executive session.” Its proceedings are always open and transparent. Making CAB our government body would be an ideal direct democracy.

However, doing so is unrealistic. Moving CAB’s functions wholly into the Senate’s purview would be foolish. That would consolidate all the oversight of student affairs within a single body that isn’t living up to its prestige.

On the one hand, the Student Senate is a time-honored institution, proven relevant and capable of doing great things on behalf of the student body.

On the other hand, can you say “trayless cafeteria”?

All scoffing aside, the matter is a serious one. And the Senate’s handling of the trayless cafeteria, from conception to execution, has been completely flawed.

The Senate did not fully listen to the student body before acting. Consequently, they have told the student body what to do rather than represented what a majority wants.

For a quick snapshot, look no further than Facebook. The “CSC Dining Services – Trayless!!” page has 30 fans, while the opposition page, “We Hate Trayless Operations,” has 175 fans. This is by no means a rigorous or scientific poll, but it raises a valid point.

Personally, I’m a fan of traylessness. I stopped using a tray long before it was a government mandate.

Going without a tray is pretty easy for me, but it is plain to see that a sizeable portion of the student body does not share this view, and probably eats differently than I do. I don’t begrudge them these differences.

Instead of easing into things with more frequent trayless days and having a public debate before deeming the change permanent, the Senate made the change and then set up a booth to discuss concerns.

Providing such a booth ex post facto assumes the Senate’s views are superior to any dissenting student’s and that such a dissenter will be swiftly converted by casual conversation. Obviously this has not been the case, and may have made things worse.

According to psychologist Drew Westen, one of the pitfalls of deciding public policy is, constituents hate nothing more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.

The hostile reception of a trayless cafeteria goes a long way to show that the Senate is out of touch, bound up in pet projects, and/or concerned with furthering only the interests of the Senators.

These faults may be symptoms of a significant lack of interaction with the student body, but more than likely, the real culprit is unbalanced representation in the Senate.

Senators for the School of Business, Entrepreneurship, Applied and Mathematical Sciences and Sciences (B.E.A.M.S.S.) fill nine seats. Senators for the School of Education, Human Performance, Counseling, Psychology and Social Work (E.H.P.C.P.S.W.) fill three seats. There are currently no senators for the School of Liberal Arts (no silly acronym needed).

The Senate’s constitution does not require that each school be represented equally or that each be represented at all.

Further, several vacant seats have been filled through application and internal approval of the Senate, not the votes of the student body.

At this point, I think the argument practically makes itself. The Student Senate needs its own overhaul.

I propose that the Senate consider implementing three things by way of renovation.

The first, and easiest, is to improve communication and interaction with the student body.

Efforts toward this end have already begun with the creation of a Facebook page, updates to the listings on the CSC Web site, and senators’ responses to student feedback, such as on the “We Hate Trayless Operations” page. At the very least, they could quit having so many “executive sessions.”

The second, is to amend the constitution to require adequate, if not equal, representation for each of the three academic schools.

Otherwise, an amendment increasing the ratio of senators at-large—there are presently just five—to senators for specific schools would serve the goal of greater balance.

And third, consider reducing the overall size of the senate.

Fifteen senators for academic schools, eleven junior senators, five senators at-large, the executive and judicial seats, and CAB add up to a large student government for a small student body.

Even the U.S. Senate has just two senators per state.

Reducing our Senate’s ranks to two or three senators for each academic school and keeping the senators at-large at five or six would make the seats more difficult to obtain, foster greater competition in senate races, and increase the participation of senators who wish to remain in office.

The possibilities are endless and the school’s centennial swiftly approaches. To the Student Senate I say: please impress us.

Editors note:

The headline of this article appeared in print as “Senate should scrutinize it’s own efficiency, relevance, not just CAB’s”

It should have read “Senate should scrutinize its own efficiency, relevance, not just CAB’s”

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