Students can define Senate
Commentary: Students Have Ways to Affect Change at their University
The editorial titled “Students should be aware of resources provided by Senate,” explores the so-called raison d’être of Student Senate and thus tries to discover why the Senate is important to students. However, students can be important to Senate and define what the organization does. Students who want to get involved in student governance can also join Senate committees that help make decisions about policies such as the $17.50 activity fee which the Senate disperses, the $423.35 per student per semester fee, and the Senate’s ability to write resolutions.
The attitude of the editorial is encapsulated in Mason Heilman’s remark on how “the biggest challenge the Senate faced was helping students understand what the organization could do for them.” This talk would do little to ignite my appreciation for the Senate if I were not already a student senator.
The question at hand — What can the Senate do? — is improperly phrased. It might be better to recall the rhetoric of JFK, that is, ask not what the Senate can do for you, but rather what you would like do or change at the University. The real value of Student Senate lies in its existence as a democratic institution for students, an institution which has approximately one-third say in all University-level decisions (far more than at other Big 12 schools). Such control over our own affairs did not come easily, and it is a tenuous privilege. As Marlesa A. Roney, the vice provost for student success, reminded student senators earlier this year, students must constantly demand their rights or they may be lost.
Most importantly, this real value of the Senate is available to us all. One need not apply for the empty Student Senate seats; all students can be members of the Student Senate fortnightly committees, which “take a direct and active role in the legislative process” of Student Senate and essentially make or break the Student Senate agenda.
Once involved, you can make of it what you want. More fees, fewer fees, no fees, applaud Bill Self, sweatshop-free University apparel, responsible use of student e-mail, environmental practices, endowment transparency; it only happens with the realization that anyone, not just the self-selected “elite,” can decide for themselves what is best. Perhaps it’s time for us to get our hands dirty and start practicing some real democracy.