I know that this will come as a shock to anyone who has ever glanced at my column, but I do not like the Student Government. I think that it is a holding pen for the self-important who used to run their high schools and now want to convince themselves that they are that much closer to their destined seat in Congress and thus that much closer to saving the world. Spare me, please.
The Senate did little last week to help itself in my eyes. Effective Sunday, Speaker Chris Sgro resigned his position in protest of the petty politics that have consumed the Senate. According to Sgro’s resignation speech, “Too many senators focus on procedure, pomp and ego-inflation rather than what’s important to students. These are the focuses which force the student body at large to look at the Senate with cynicism.” Great. Some finally gets it. Or at least pretends to.
Consider senators’ responses in Monday’s issue of The Eagle to Sgro’s resignation speech. Sen. Charlie Biscotto, a sophomore and member of the SPA Leadership Program, complained, “[Sgro’s] desire to name names as to whom he liked and who he didn’t was immature and conveyed his own personal vendettas more than anything else.” Funny, when someone names the names of people who have been creating problems, that is generally called accountability. Of course, Sen. Elliot Friedman, a freshman and - shocker - also a member of the SPA Leadership Program, agreed with Biscotto, saying, “I believe that it is a good day for the Senate. I believe we will operate better as a whole.”
Yeah. I bet. Sgro is out of the way, so now the Senate can get back to more important things, like Friedman and Biscotto’s bill to impeach a senator who has probably done more for students than Friedman or Biscotto ever will; or maybe Sen. Una Ann Hardester’s resolution in support of voting rights for D.C. residents; or maybe Biscotto’s resolution to condemn an act of Congress; or maybe - pretty please - more money for still more BE Campaign t-shirts. If Sgro was referring to these irrelevant flights of fancy when he criticized the Senate’s penchant for procedure, pomp and ego-inflation, then I heartily agree with him.
Then there is President Kyle Taylor, who recognized student dissatisfaction with the SG enough to tell senators, “We all have to fight for relevance on a campus where less than 50 percent of the students think we’re doing our job.” Please, Mr. President. I think that “less than 50 percent” is being just a little bit generous. There are about 30 people on this campus who will be offended when they read this column and they all serve in the SG. Anyway, I am glad to see that Taylor leads by example, especially when he is schmoozing with U.S. Senate Finance Committee staff on the Hill or providing quotes to The Washington Post in regards to Ladnergate. A reasonable observer might ask Taylor just what he has done to ensure that the administration never again abuses students’ interests.
If Taylor or any members of the Senate were real leaders, or even if they just had a genuine desire to be relevant, then maybe we would have a different Senate. Maybe Hardester’s beloved Committee on External Affairs would not even exist, since the Senate is supposed to serve students and not D.C. residents. Perhaps we would not have just one Committee on University Policy, but several. If I were to write a constitution for this all-too-perfect imitation of the real thing, then I would structure the Senate to conduct oversight of the administration. I would create a Committee on Academics and Tuition, a Committee on Accounting and Finance, a Committee on Housing and Dining and a Committee on Student Activities, and I am just getting warmed up. I would demand that university officials regularly testify before the relevant committees and I would make the Senate a watchdog organization that relentlessly protects students’ best interests from an administration that has shown little interest in even considering them.
If only someone else were interested in reforming the SG.
In his resignation speech, Sgro addressed rumors among the senators that a small faction was discussing the possibility of circulating a petition calling for a referendum to disband the Senate. According to Sgro and from what little I have been able to find out, those rumors are just rumors, and that is too bad. If there is a movement to disband the Senate, move it out into the sunlight and give me your petition. I will sign it and I will defend it. We pay student activity fees every semester for this? If this Senate cannot faithfully represent the students, then let us start over and try again until we get it right. Screw the t-shirts and disband the Senate. I want my $140 back.
Jonathan D. McPike is a sophomore
in the School of Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences and is The Eagle’s moderate political columnist.