The Students’ Association Senate’s recent decision to decrease the total number of senators is a positive response to the changing nature and needs of the student body.
It represents an acknowledgement that students are better represented by peers of the same class year rather than by residential location and increases competition for available senatorial seats.
Previously, senators were elected to represent a building or a cluster of buildings.
This bylaw allowed for a junior living in Susan B. Anthony Residence Hall – a building designated as freshman housing – to represent a constituency that has different interests and perspectives. Although an upperclassman would have more experience and knowledge about the school, a freshman can serve as a better representative for students of his or her class year.
The decreased number of seats is a logical reaction to low voter turnout. If there are fewer students who care enough to vote, then there should be fewer students representing them. With fewer seats up for election, in theory, candidates would be more active during their campaigns. After a more meaningful and competitive election process, the senate will be composed of dedicated members.
Even though these changes have reformed the senate composition, the rules governing elections have room for improvement.
Elections are still being split between the spring and fall semesters for the six at-large senatorial seats. Although at-large senators should ideally be elected in the fall to account for the votes of incoming freshmen, the benefit of enfranchising freshmen is negated by the reduced voter turnout for the student body as a whole.
By electing them during the spring semester, the at-large senators would more accurately reflect the political will of the student body.
As an effort to increase senate efficiency and effectiveness, the bylaw changes are a great step forward. However, new reforms should continue to be developed and implemented.