On March 29, SA President Jordan Smith informed the student body through an email of the policy recommendations of the “Task Force on Gender-Specific Student Organizations.” Since then, the recommendations have provoked impassioned responses from many students and groups. It is the discussion on this issue, and others, such as February’s ruling on the finances of the club Equestrian Team, that drives us to discuss our role as Students’ Association members in the governing of student life.
We won’t detail the complete recommendations here — because the full document is readily available in the email from Smith and in the Campus Times’ news story — but the reaction has primarily been in response to a proposed waiver process, through which organizations that “depend upon following gender-exclusive membership policies set by an external governing body” could be excused from last spring’s ACJC ruling that barred SA from affiliating with gendered groups.
The introduction of the waiver would require an amendment to the SA Constitution. Few students are involved in the SA political process, but this waiver, if anything, should drive many more students to be pay attention and participate. Any SA constitutional amendment requires majority support from students voting. For or against, only by voting can you truly make tangible democratic changes. Perhaps voting may seem fruitless on a national level, but in a school with only about 6,000 undergrads, and remarkably low turnout rates for SA elections, your voting can truly affect the outcome.
And on an issue that could affect so many members of our campus community — those involved in club sports, in a cappella groups, in Greek life, and members of the queer community who feel discriminated against — students should take the time to both inform themselves on the question and to answer it on their ballot.
The apathy of most students toward SA comes from the fact that it feels like the government doesn’t often have a direct impact on our lives. And often that might be true. But SA has vastly more influence in some matters than we might anticipate. Recent events have demonstrated this fact more than anything. SA’s vote on Equestrian showed that the government can change the everyday life of a UR student in an instant. This is why we need to be involved.
Moreover, we need to be equipped with the right information before getting involved. All of the recommendations of the task force are explained in the six-page document attached to Smith’s email. Reactions to it from the community are discussed in this week’s news story on the situation. It takes little effort to keep yourself informed and to form your own opinions after doing so. For questions as high-profile as this, it will be worth it to fully read and understand what you are voting for — and to actually vote.
If you feel strongly about this waiver — if you feel that it’s an example of political weaseling and a vehicle for discrimination, or if you feel that the gender-exclusivity of a club should be in the hands of the club itself, or if you feel that the recommendations are a necessary compromise given that the rules of some clubs are at the mercy of people outside the University, or if you just feel that it’s plain wrong — please vote. It’ll mean something to students here, now and in the future.