First let me talk about the fact that four senators abstained from voting. As senators, we do not have that many obligations; however, we have a responsibility to vote in ways that we feel represent the voice of the student body. By that right, wouldn’t not voting (abstaining) essentially be saying that the student body has no voice on the issue? I will discuss the reasons why I strongly disagree with those who voted against this by-law, but I think it is downright pathetic that we have senators who have listened to debate on this issue for multiple hours over the past two weeks and decided that they would remain silent. The student body elected us to help make decisions on their behalf, and if we aren’t able to make those tough decisions, maybe we should find somebody who is.
For as long as anyone is aware, Senate meetings have been dominated by club funding, but given the fact that the past two meetings have not had any hotly-contested funding debates, many of our senators decided that the problem was miraculously solved. Those two meetings were outliers.
Let’s look at the Cleveland Cavaliers for a minute. After losing 26 games consecutively, they eventually managed to win three out of five games. If we follow the logic of some of our senators, the Cavs are now a great team! Since they won those three games, there is no need to improve their roster. But in both basketball and government, we need to be looking at the bigger picture. Senate meetings have sucked for so long because they are fundamentally flawed. If we do not take specific steps to change them, then nothing will improve. I would love nothing more than if every Senate meeting we have in the future goes as our last two have, but that is simply not going to happen. If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Fact.
Now, I can see the point of view of those who are afraid that this new by-law might not work as well as we had planned, and for that very reason, the makers of the by-law added a Sunset Clause, which means that if passed, it would only be enacted until early April. In other words, we would try it out for a few weeks, and then decide if it’s working or not. But the senators who voted against this by-law were not willing to try something new, even for a few weeks. Our world thrives on trial and error. If somebody has a new idea, they try it out. If it works, great, we have significantly improved something. But if it doesn’t, then we can go right back to where we started and be all the wiser for having tried it. But we were not willing to try something new, and therefore, we will never know whether or not this by-law could have seriously improved Senate.
Let me talk about last night’s debate. One senator argued that if we do not discuss BC decisions at our meetings, then we will be emailed with BC updates every week and she does not like having her inbox flooded with emails…so she did not vote for the by-law. Another senator spoke out against the by-law claiming that we as senators are not creative enough to find ways to fill the hole in our meetings that eliminating BC discussions would leave. I had a hard time taking him seriously since he was on his laptop watching a basketball game while he made this point. Then there was the comment by Vice President Michael Dolmatch. In the last statement made before the Senate voted, Dolmatch asked us to take into account that the entire Executive Board had met privately and decided as a group that this by-law is a bad idea. I have a lot of respect for Dolmatch both personally and as Vice President, but that was pretty uncalled for. Talk about governing from the top down. We as Senators have spent an equal amount of time as our E-board officers discussing the merits of this bill. To suggest that their opinions should carry more weight is unfair. If that is the case, then we should dissolve our 32-member Senate and leave all important school decisions up to the five E-board members. Dolmatch later realized that he had made a mistake and apologized for his comment, which I appreciated. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.
The most frustrating part of this ordeal came right after the by-law was voted down, when several of the senators who had voted ‘No’ declared that we should re-examine it in a couple weeks if our meetings start getting long and tedious again. Essentially, they said that we should wait and see if things get worse. Waiting to address a problem once it has started is simply poor judgment. Should we commend our good friends at BP for stopping the oil spill, or chew them out for not preventing it before it happened? I am sorry that our Senate failed you … but 11 of us still have your back!