Electoral dysfunction? Not in Student Senate.
Ever since the notorious Student Senate election occurred at the University of Kansas Campus, there has been a significant amount of chatter surrounding its fairness and authenticity. At this time in America, it has become easier and easier to simply point out the callous acts of individuals and unethical ramifications of certain bureaucratic processes. While things constantly are going wrong in politics, the average cynic must also face the facts: things are also constantly going right.
If some cynic digs deep enough to find some minute flaw in a system, they may just find some. However, it is they who are unethical, rather than the blamed institution, if they are tirelessly searching for dirt and indulging their pretty blatant bias, ignorance, and anger towards a process that they know nothing about. The fact of the matter is that the Senate, in and of itself, is a high-functioning governing body on campus. This fact, however, was hotly contested in a recent Letter to the Editor.
In an attempt to gain more insider information on Senate affairs, it only seemed appropriate to speak with Max Schieber, a freshman from St. Joseph, who was recently elected University Affairs Chair. Schieber took issue with the recent piece, saying it had “spread multiple inaccuracies and misinformed opinions” arguing that the Senate’s mandate to govern was legitimate, and derived from “the Chancellor, the Board of Regents, and the student body.”
The issue of low turnout, Schieber claimed, was not so bad in comparison to other schools. After all, he said, “K-state, a similarly sized university, had less votes cast for their president-elect than ours.” The process for running and voting in elections is transparent and open, claiming that “the only election rule that has changed is that senatorial candidates do not have to obtain student signatures to run for office.” The fundamental issue, he concluded, was “a general apathy towards student government and it will take much more than minor rule changes to fix [that].”
KU student Wesley Cudney argues that the startlingly low turnout in the recent Student Senate elections renders the organization's mandate to govern pointlessly, claiming that their confusing choice of platforms is what disillusions students from exercising their civic power.
This false criticism also personally resonated with me, due to experiences I had with exploring Senate operations at the start of the Fall semester. At the start of the semester, freshmen flocked to the senate informational tables that were omnipresent at KU orientation events. As a fellow freshman, I particularly remember how accessible the information about Senate proceedings was and how inviting the veteran Senators were toward the interested freshmen.
At the first meeting, several freshmen were elected to leadership positions on committees within the senate, simply because they had the interest in the position and the drive to actually run. For students interested in learning more, a mentorship program was also available to apply for.
Ultimately, if you are interested in learning more about Senate and have heard the misinformed rumors spreading around campus, feel free to speak to one of your Senators or committee members, come to a Senate committee meeting, or visit the Student Senate’s website. The Student Senate is an institution comprised of driven students fighting for your best interests.
Much to the chagrin of many a cynic, there are not any new structural flaws with the Student Senate, and complaining about it in such a way is, quite frankly, a waste of paper, as there are so many other notable causes and institutions to critique. There is no electoral dysfunction in our student senate.
Sarah Grindstaff is a freshman from Columbia, Illinois, studying political science.