If you ask senators what the Senate does at our weekly meetings, they will tell you that we spend the majority of our meeting approving recommendations already approved by the Budgetary Committee (BC).
This system is inefficient. It delays student organizations from getting access to funds approved by the BC by over a week. This system is ineffective. It is rare that the Senate overturns a BC decision, and even rarer that our modification measurably improves student life. But, most of all, this system prevents the Senate from realizing its potential. When the entire structure of your meetings is set around debating BC recommendations, discussing student life issues — ostensibly the real reason the Senate was created — becomes nearly impossible.
Sit through one of our meetings and watch us ignore the debate over substance free housing or Valentine reform and instead argue over how integral wings are to a club’s fantasy hockey draft, and you will begin to understand why senators, as well as students, hate the organization that’s supposed to represent their interests.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The College is unique in that almost every single committee that governs our college has student representation. Senators have votes on the committees that set social life policy, building priorities and educational policy, as well as those that manage the library and govern the IT Department. The AAS has a hand in every issue that affects this school, but the Senate never spends a single meeting discussing an agenda of student causes for these committees. Instead, we arbitrarily elect a Senator or two to serve on them and hope for the best. I think we can do better than this, but it has to start by reimagining what Senate meetings should be.
It was with this goal in mind that I worked with a number of senators to push the most audacious reforms the AAS has seen in recent memory. In its final form, our bill would have changed our meetings in that a single student or senator would actually have to object to a BC decision before the Senate discussed it. Those requests that were not controversial would be approved by e-mail vote so that they would not dominate our meetings.
I do not wish to dive into the extensive debates the Senate had over the bill, but I do want to bring one particular argument to bear before the entire student body. A freshman senator argued that this Senate has not discussed student life issues because we do not really have any ideas to offer on things that affect students. If this is actually the case (and I don’t think it is), then please, for the sake of the entire student body, vote out every incumbent in the next election. If we don’t have any idea of how to improve our College then we have no business representing you.