The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Instagram

Special interest seats don’t achieve goal

The issue of special-interest seats continues to spark debate across campus. Students on both side of the issue are well meaning and intelligent. However, despite the good intentions of advocates for special-interest seats, the fact remains that special-interest seats defeat the purpose of electing representatives, cause inequalities in the student body, and are impractical as a way to affect change.

The Student Senate was instituted to provide a voice for the students of SMU by having the student body select individuals who reflect their interests, but special-interest seats defeat the purpose of this representation. The argument behind special-interest seats is that unless an individual possesses certain life experiences, like race or orientation, they cannot represent students with those experiences. If this is true, however, then why stop at race or orientation? Every individual possesses a unique set of life experiences, regardless of what special-interest category they fall under. Indeed, the special-interest categories themselves are made up of numerous sub-categories. Texans have different experiences than Californians, Texans who grew up in poverty have different experiences than Texans who grew up wealthy, and so on. This argument can be used until the requirements for representing an individual exclude all people save for the individual himself. This is impractical, however, as it would necessitate that the student body hold a referendum to accomplish anything. Electing senators serves as a way for individual students to vote for candidates who best reflect their individual interests. If a student feels that an issue is not being addressed, then that student could run for the senate himself. In this way the entire student-body is treated as a special-interest group, with each individual having the opportunity to have their specific interests represented. Proponents of special-interest seats already show a willingness to group interests together by creating one LGBT seat, or one African-American seat. If a lesbian can be represented by a gay male, or a conservative African-American be represented by a liberal African-American, then why can’t a liberal African-American be represented by a liberal Caucasian? If the wide and diverse interests within a minority can be grouped together, then why not group together the wide and diverse interests of the student body?

Furthermore, special-interest seats strive to achieve equality through creating inequality. For whatever reason, special-interest seats are given to certain segments of the student body but not to others. If the proposals for a LGBT Senator and a Disability Senator were to become reality, then an ethnic minority student who was gay with a disability would be able to elect representatives from their school, ethnicity, orientation, and disability whereas a white, heterosexual student with no disability could only elect a representative from their school, giving the former student four times the representation of the latter. No matter how you slice it, this is not equality. Either the student group without representation is inferior and therefore does not deserve representation, or the student group with representation is inferior and therefore needs more representation. Both of these choices are faulty in that they ignore the fundamental equality of all individuals, and they prove that special-interest seats only serve to divide our campus with an “us versus them” mentality that hampers true progress in our society.

Lastly, special-interest seats are impractical as a way to end discrimination. The natural diversity of the Senate bears witness to the fact that our student body is not so bigoted as some would believe. SMU students are fully capable of looking past the color of one’s skin, choosing representatives based on the content of their character. Furthermore, the Senate provides many resources to ensure that all voices of the SMU community are heard. From funding the SPECTRUM program to maintaining a diversity committee, the Senate is committed to representing the interests of students. Prejudice and intolerance unfortunately still exist, but these barriers faced by parts of our student body are not created or helped by the Student Senate or Administration. Instead they are barriers of the mind; prejudices carried in the hearts of people. And no amount of legislation can change someone’s mind without their consent – that task, history has shown, requires time and conscience.

Special interest seats are contrary to the point of a representative system, they increase inequalities on our campus, and they are an impractical solution to combating prejudice. Our student body just doesn’t need to be divided by race or orientation. In then end, we’re all Mustangs.

Philip Hayes is a freshman political science major and can be reached for comment at [email protected].

More to Discover