Student apathy attempts to diminish senate value

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Illustration by Lauren Rutledge

Voting is important. Voting is important? It changes from a statement to a question depending on what you are voting on. Capital punishment, important. MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, not important. Student Senate elections, now that’s a tough question.

The Student Senate has 30 positions, five members of the executive board and 25 at large senators. Senate President Elliot Rogers feels the Senate is a tool for facilitating learning. On the other hand, it has control of $38,000 each year allotted for funding clubs on campus. When that kind of money is involved, the position of student senator wields actual power.

This makes the election of Student Senate important. The fall 2013 election originally had seven total candidates — to fill up 25 positions. That means a voter can stop in to vote, but those seven candidates are getting a spot in this group. After the election, the Student Senate is going to look to continue to add members until they reach the desired 30 total senators.

This means, at least with the number of Senators qualified for the ballot, the election is effectively meaningless, so not important. This could be confused with the Senate not being necessary. That isn’t the case.

Deciding how the money is allotted to clubs is extremely important. It can and has been argued, that a faculty member could just as easily divvy up the funds. People wonder why the amount of money was controlled by a group that earned their position simply by signing up. In the years prior to the Student Senate taking the reins of the activities budget, clubs would simply ask Pam Vassar, assistant dean of Student Life, for funds to throw club events.

The likely scenario was that the Student Life would decide the validity of the event and if it met the specifications, it would get the money. There was no specific cap that would be met. On the exterior this looks like a better plan for clubs that might hope to spend more money than the allotted amount. The problem is that if the Student Life department decides a club could not receive the funds for a certain event, there was no formal process to rectify or even clarify a decision.

The Student Senate works in a different manner. When the Senate is asked for funds from a club for an event, they require a handful of things. The club must accumulate a percentage of the funds before they will be given the remainder to fund an event.

Past the proof that the club completed its own fundraising in a sufficient manner, the Senate takes into account how much the club has been given in comparison to other clubs. Clubs must be active for two years to be eligible for funds. The Senate has to figure out if the event even needs funding.

The process of the Senate allows clubs asking for funds to be involved in the decision on spending. A club isn’t just given a yes or no response, they are able to reason on the club’s behalf and senators are able to explain the decisions they make.

The bureaucracy of the Student Senate creates a documented and regimented format for dispersing a limited number of funds. The years prior to their involvement, there was no clear avenue for figuring out where the funds were going and what the limit on the funds would be.

If only for limiting the funds dispersed, it is worth having the Senate control the funds rather than a selected Student Life faculty member. At a time when the budget is under scrutiny, it is refreshing that a group of students are successfully demonstrating financial restraint.

Rogers said that if the Student Sen-

ate gave out every request brought to them, they would spend the $38,000 during the first semester. Using their best judgment, the Senate turns down or decreases funding based on the request. This allows the $38,000 to be given out efficiently during the school year.

Some years they have not given out all of the funds, but they have never gone over the original budget. That’s the type of fiscal responsibility that the other governing bodies might want to emulate.

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