It seems that every year, our Students’ Association Senate promises internal change yet never delivers. Last year, this promise came in the form of a new constitution meant to bring organizational focus to SA. It was not ratified.
This fall, the senate adopted a Group Advocacy System to better relationships between SA funded clubs and the senate. This system has showed little success. These failures came as no surprise to me because, frankly, the SA did not have its heart in either proposal.
Both efforts represented an attempt to give purpose to a system that has yet to assert its real authority — both to the students it professes to serve and to the administration of the university. Only when this authority is realized will the senate be able to act with confidence.
The fact is, the senate has the potential to make a difference. It possesses perhaps the most useful tool needed to advocate student concerns — the almighty dollar. However, the senate has yet to realize this advantage.
This is because most spending decisions are referred to the Students’ Association Appropriations Committee. However, SAAC’s decisions are rarely overturned by the senate. This fact alone is a crippling blow to the credibility of our student government — most of the authority of the SA has been given to an essentially autonomous group.
SAAC does an excellent job evaluating groups’ need for funds, however, they often miss the big picture — what is SA’s place at UR and how does SA funding fit into this?
If the SA wants the average student to be able to recognize their senator, let alone participate in SA elections, they must feel that that senator’s decisions can and will affect student life at UR. In order to accomplish this, the SA must use its ability to legislate financial incentives and repercussions to force change.
A decision to freeze the budgets of clubs refusing to participate in the Group Advocacy System would immediately boost communication between groups and senators. In fact, the Club Sports Council already does this to groups that do not attend monthly meetings.
But as Take-Five Scholar Ashley Conner said, “Senate’s pussy.” They don’t want to be mean to SA organizations.
Senate should be mean. Only after asserting its place with regard to governance of student activities will students begin to recognize the SA as an authoritative body and the senate as student leaders on campus.Furthermore, it is only after this step has been taken that the SA can work towards claiming a more important place at the UR administrative level.
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