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

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SMU Senate fails to represent student interests

Would you like to know if SMU plans to increase tuition? And what does it plan to do with that new building? What’s up with the revisions to the general education curriculum? Your student government knows. The trouble is—you don’t.

A recent article by Meredith Shamburger in The Daily Campus discussed renewed debate over student representation in Senate. For those who aren’t familiar with the way our student government is organized at SMU, we aim to represent all students by dividing representation into the various schools on campus. Roughly put, there is one student for every 300 students in Cox, Meadows, Lyle, Simmons, Dedman Law, etc. Some time ago, our Student Senate created additional seats to represent certain student populations it believed were under-represented in our student government. In addition to the senators, we have representing us through our school(s) of study, there is also an African-American Senator, Asian-American Senator, Hispanic-American Senator and International Senator.

The Daily Campus article from March 23 reported that student-athlete Kelvin Beachum brought a proposal to Student Senate to append our constitution to form a “student-athlete senator” position. The article stated that Beachum told the chamber that there is a “disconnect” between student athletes and Student Senate and, therefore, an additional seat could help resolve this lack of communication.

I do believe that Mr. Beachum is correct in his belief that student athletes are disconnected from Student Senate. However, I don’t think that he understands that what he has stumbled upon is a universal disconnect between all SMU students and their student government.

The idea behind dividing our senators into our academic disciplines (Lyle, Cox, etc.) is that there is equal representation this way. There are already student athletes and every other type of student represented in Student Senate. Your Student Senate representation is simply elected with the title of “Lyle Senator” or “Cox Senator” because that’s how our representation is divvied up.

It is time that our student government realize why there have been so many proposals in the past two or three years to add additional seats to our Student Senate. Students don’t feel that they are being represented adequately. I applaud Mr. Beachum for being one more voice attempting to let our student government recognize this.

I spent two years on our Student Senate, both as a Senator and as the chair of the membership committee. From experience, I will tell you that the unfortunate reality is that there are only a select few on our Student Senate that actively pursue open communication with their constituents and promote those students’ interests. Most senators believe that it is the job of the students to come to their student government to be heard. It is of course, in fact, the opposite. Our Student Senate needs to recognize that instead of having a “Student Concerns Committee” that the entirety of our student government is supposed to solicit student concerns.

Our senators need to take these students’ appeals as a wake-up call. Instead of interrogating those with enough moxie to attend a meeting, try offering a smile, your cell number and offer to grab coffee or lunch and figure out how their needs can be addressed. Students cannot instantaneously conjure up legislation on command, nor should they have to. Since Student Senate is privy to more information about SMU, how is the average student supposed to know that information affects them unless senators share it?

Members of Student Senate: You took an oath to “serve and represent [your] constituents” and “communicate all relevant issues to them.” It is clear from recent requests for additional representation that the students don’t feel that many of you are being true to your oath of office.

Students: I hope you will exercise your right to vote this Wednesday and Thursday. I also hope that you will continue to pressure our student leadership to recognize that serving in Student Senate is not a job that takes place only on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m.

I believe that the solutions being offered to resolve our representation problem have been off target. We don’t need more representation for our students; we need representation that does more for our students.

Jack Benage is a junior majoring in accounting. He can be reached for comments and questions at [email protected].

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