Examining student government effectiveness

Better yet, form a student group to act as an activist arm of student government.

I am a graduate student and in my third year as a member of University Senate. I sit on Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and am also one of the authors of GAPSA’s resolution in support of cage-free eggs.

I appreciate the perspective voiced by Ethan Root in his Dec. 1 letter to the editor, “Student associations,” and agree with him that student government is less effectual than it should be. I disagree with him about the cause, however. Student government, like all University governance, has a merely advisory role. The Board of Regents has never set any type of policy that mandates it to listen to us ” all we get is a soapbox (normally in the form of coverage in the Daily and access to administrators) for the issues we think are important to students. We are reaching out to our constituents to confirm that we are acting in representation of students. Our track record of actually making things happen is hit-and-miss.

For real change, we have to demonstrate that the students are activated around the issues. Student government will work only if backed by students. There is an alarming level of apathy on this campus ” the malaise of the students is not going to get the administration to listen to the few who have been active. Root seems concerned about the issue of the stadium fee on campus ” an issue that graduate and professional students have been working on for more than two years. I suggest that he take his passion and get involved in his representative body ” MSA ” which has not as yet taken a pro-student position against a stadium fee. If students don’t feel like student government represents their interests, or don’t feel like student government is correctly setting priorities, get involved! Better yet, form a student group to act as an activist arm of student government and agitate for students’ interests using direct-action tactics around campus.

Taking on issues like University Dining Services food policy and stadium fees are not mutually exclusive projects. And I would caution against ever trivializing the importance of the food made available to students on campus. Staking out positions that affect students does not make student government less effective. The real problem is the students who are going to school but not taking ownership over the institution that we have an obligation to invest in and improve.

Kris Houlton is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]