Does Student Senate advocate student rights?

TEMP ORARY December 9, 2011 0

At every level of American society, there are elected officials who have been voted into a position of power by one group or another to lead someone or something. Going hand-in-hand with that are the complaints filed against those leaders—if something goes wrong, it’s their fault, they caused this catastrophe. If something goes right, they’re thanked with a shrug of the shoulders and a “well, they don’t really do anything anyway.” So, if there’s a problem, they caused it; if there’s progress, happiness or success, they had nothing to do with it. Welcome to politics.

With that being said, some of the most cut-throat, cat-clawing political strife presents itself in the form of school government: from the middle school and early high school levels where promises of on-campus water slides or candy bribes were as commonplace as Christmas music come mid-November (I’m still angry about that), to late high school when you realized you knew who was going to win school presidency as soon as you saw the name. It was all politics —mostly lies, slightly rigged in the favor of the one kid the teachers knew they’d be able to control.

A lot of the frustration geared toward members of political offices, and in Elizabethtown College’s case, Student Senate, stems from the fact that people who don’t know as much as they should take an active role in the process themselves or attribute too much power and ability to one particular person or group. Student Senate’s motto is “advocating student rights,” so naturally people will say that they don’t. I’ll admit, I don’t vote for anything, and I didn’t go on Blackboard when it was time to elect Senate reps for the school this year. It’s not something I care much about. By making the conscious decision to not participate in the election process, by not taking an active role in the decision-making opportunities I’ve had, I must also omit my right to complain about the repercussions. If Senate does something I don’t like, I can’t complain. I didn’t voice my opinion when it counted towards something during the elections, and any outcries of disagreement I may have should be taken as null and void.

With that being said, I do know for a fact that Senate hosts “Town Hall” meetings, which serve as an open-floor discussion about the agenda of Senate: students are free to come and go as they please, offer opinions, suggest changes to be made and provide feedback to any and all Senate policies. If no one attends, Senate may be safe in assuming all is going well across campus; if no one is voicing their opinion in an environment strictly geared toward that function, well, there’s not much anyone can be expected to do to make changes they don’t know need to be made. So, if you want to see changes occur in the Elizabethtown College community, than attend these meetings.

Tangible evidence of Senate’s actions can be pointed out fairly easily across campus as well: if you’re in any club, most of us being in multiple, then you’ll know of the Senate Finance Committee. Whenever a club requires funds for any function (trips, parties, sponsored events), they’re able to request additional funding from Senate. The committee reviews the request, and divvies funds accordingly. Through this, Senate is able to both promote and support student groups on campus, all the while being able to make sure they’re beneficial to the community as a whole. As much as I’d love a water park party, unless a club can provide ample support for its necessity, Senate is obligated to shoot that down.

Another pressing issue on campus pertains to alcohol-related incidents and the punishments issued to underage students who may be involved. One policy in place is the Good Samaritan clause, which allows students who may also be intoxicated to call for assistance if a friend is in dire need. Their violations of alcohol policies will be waived due to the fact they called for help, but still students may have reservations about calling Campus Security when alcohol is involved. Senate is now working on an amnesty policy which will allow students to call in for themselves. By showing that they’re able to recognize they’ve put themselves in a dangerous situation, students will not be punished for calling for help.

Senate does have an active role on campus; it just may not come with the ultimate power some may associate with it. Without feedback from the community, they won’t be aware of situations that require their attention. The problems Senate doesn’t know about can’t be fixed. If you have any suggestions or issues that need to be addressed, voice your opinion before pointing fingers.

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