(This post appeared in the CMC Forum on February 24, 2014)
Last night’s debate in Executive Board about student fees raised numerous questions regarding the way in which ASCMC is run. The clearest issue was that conversations on issues such as tuition increases are surprisingly absent in ASCMC, especially in Senate. While Senate is great medium for students voices to be heard, there is a noticeable lack of meaningful discourse and decision-making. I do not fault anyone within Senate for this issue, nor are the previous Vice Presidents to blame. Rather, I think this is due in large part to the lack of responsibility that Senate holds, the lack of opportunities for one to apply his or her specific passions, and a general lack of innovation in the structure of the body. This is a huge loss. Senate needs to be reformed so that we can carry out more substantive debate, better engage campus leaders, and play a larger role in advocating on behalf of the student body.
There need to be Senate Committees that address issues facing our student body. At this time, there are currently only four Senate committees: Administrative Affairs and Budgetary, Campus Improvement, Technology, and Academic Affairs. Although all are essential, they fall far short of representing the full spectrum of student interests and addressing social issues. Instead, there should be committees in areas students are passionate about and engage club leaders across campus to spearhead them. They can get students from a variety of backgrounds involved in addressing these topics. A few examples of these committees could be: a committee on Sexual Assault Culture, on Wellness, on Community Engagement, and on Diversity. These groups can then create initiatives, plan events, and inform the student body on matters that impact our entire college. This will not only make Senate more engaging and fulfilling, but it will also make our campus better off.
The recent debate over the rising cost of tuition only shows how little we have done to initiate this conversation and to express our deep concern to the Board of Trustees. Senate is uniquely capable of advocating on students’ behalf because it contains such a diversity of members. Two years ago, Senate passed a resolution to pressure the administration to implement gender-neutral housing. This past week, Eric Vos spoke at Senate regarding housing policies that will go into effect next year. This process highlights the potential of Senate to advocate for certain policy changes and for those opinions to be heard. These resolutions can be initiated by Senate committees, or even just individual students who are passionate about timely issues and specific administrative policies. Senate can do a better job of advocating for are: mental health resources, funding for underfunded academic departments, certain DOS policies, greater resources for LGBTQ students, and the aforementioned rising tuition costs. These matters are all extremely important to the student body; Senate is in a great position to not only address them collectively, but also to lobby the administration on the student body’s behalf.
These changes require leadership by members of Senate, members of the Executive Board, and students around CMC who care passionate about social change. If we can create a culture of advocacy and student engagement, we can use the initiative and passion of CMC students to really address campus issues and play a larger part in campus policy. Senate has the potential to accomplish these goals, but it will take structural reform to get there. The result will be a more active Senate along with solutions to the issues we care about most. In turn, ASCMC will cease to exist solely as an event planning organization, and it will emerge as a responsive, representative entity to enact positive social change.