- Patrick Healy
The Griffin reflects on interesting week in Senate
The USA executive board announced two interesting policies this week. (Photo: Kyra Laurie)
Vice President for Public Relations Justin Brown announced his media policy during Tuesday’s Senate meeting. He requested that, “If anyone from The Griffin reaches out to any member of Senate or USA for comment regarding anything, please let me know. If you choose to comment, please also let me know what you commented… or direct them to me. That’s the preferred method.”
Sophomore Senator Rami Daham questioned if senators were allowed to comment at all. Brown affirmed, saying “I just ask, since you are representing the organization, you let me know so that I can prepare or just be aware to stay ahead of the game.”
Brown wants the “organization” to speak with one voice. But USA isn’t your typical campus organization. Brown and the rest of the executive board are elected independently of each other and the senators. The senators represent the classes, whereas the executive board represents the student body as a whole.
As students, we’re glad Brown wants student government to sound cohesive. But he stepped too far in pressuring senators to direct questions to him instead of answering for themselves. It’s a lose-lose: senators who don’t want to comment could use his statement as an excuse not to answer questions, and those who otherwise would speak with us might fear blowback from the e-board.
It’d make sense for the latter to speak as one, because they are the administrators. They are more effective when they are united. But senators don’t administrate; they represent the students and guide the e-board’s actions. The whole point of the Senate is to represent different viewpoints. We understand that the members function as a club for social purposes, but for it to maintain any credibility as an elected student government, the voices of the executive board and Senate must be separate.
In another matter, President Alyssa Deacon said that each club must send one e-board member to every monthly meeting of the Council of Representatives, or their club’s budget will be temporarily frozen until they meet with the USA e-board individually. The Council of Representatives was founded last year to facilitate communication between the USA and club leaders.
The announcement did come off a bit heavy-handed. If the Council meetings are designed to help USA better support clubs, as Deacon couched it, then they’re basically pulling the “it’s for your own good” argument. With that said, we agree that the policy itself is reasonable. Grumble as we may, clubs should be somewhat accountable to the elected student body that funds them: USA senators are only allowed a certain number of absences and have a myriad of other obligations regarding participation in committees, Finance Board and campus events. Club leaders can handle this.
For example, not all club leaders received the email. The Council is designed to ameliorate this kind of simple communication issue. By the nature of college, club leaders graduate, club support waxes and wanes and they are only active for just 15 weeks at a time. COVID-19 meant we weren’t even on campus for large chunks of the past few years. The Council is a way to ensure that USA (and other clubs) know which clubs are active and who their leaders are.
Clubs offer their own incentives for attendance at their events. Most of these are rewards for attendance, rather than punitive measures for lack of it. However, the Council is different; unlike a C-block event, it’s not designed to be fun. It is an efficient way for clubs to understand USA policy and see how other clubs operate. The more clubs that show up, the better off everyone is.
A positive incentive wouldn’t work here. The USA occasionally offers a financial reward (usually about $100) to the club with the best members at certain campus events. However, that doesn’t make sense in this case. More members from one club wouldn’t help the Council. They need just one from each.
In addition, it is more important that, for example, Student Planning Board shows up than a small club such as, not to pick on them (if they even truly exist), College Democrats. The former will naturally take a freezure of their enormous budget more seriously, ensuring their attendance. Offering $50 to each club would mean almost nothing for SPB, but would double College Democrats’ budget. That wouldn’t be a desirable incentive structure.
If a club leader can’t attend a meeting, the USA e-board is willing to meet with them separately. There’s not much else they can do to make the policy more flexible without making it totally optional. That any member of a club’s leadership can attend the meeting both helps the club be represented at the meeting and helps individual members get a chance to work with other campus leaders.
Club leaders surely understand the impulse to encourage attendance. All of us attend hours of classes everyday. A monthly, hour-long meeting that can be split among multiple leaders (meaning each club leader has to show up just once per semester) won’t kill us, especially if we can meet separately with the e-board. Who knows? USA might actually have a good reason for the meetings, too.
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