I just finished a reported New Yorker article by George Packer on the modern senate. It’s multifaceted and hard to to summarize. You should read it.
Anyways, it got me thinking about our Senate. You know, the Union Senate.
I don’t think anyone has a good opinion of the Senate. Its composition seems to change almost totally every year – but the bad feelings still remain. Why?
Well, I think the big factor is rather simple – no one really knows what the Senate is supposed to do. Pass legislation? The Union can’t (or doesn’t) enforce any laws, the senate rarely votes to change the rules regulating clubs. Anything that the Union does as a body executive, the E-Board just does without the need for Senate authorization.
So, the Senate is rather useless – and clueless about what it should be doing with its time. Chartering clubs doesn’t take that much time or effort, after all. Yet, Senate meetings are notoriously long-winded and last late into the night. What takes up all that extra time. Some oversight, yes, of a watered-down kind. The rest? Drama.
All that ^ has been my traditional explanation of the situation with the Senate – it’s foibles, it’s failures. It’s a good analysis – many former senators share it.
And yet, now I think maybe I should revise that analysis a bit.
The senate has drama, yes, but perhaps because it is the most democratic of union institutions. Barring high-profile Student Judiciary Trials, it is the one institutions where “common students” can come and confront the powers-that-be.
Real life is messy – people are dramatic, talk too much, and get riled up. Shouldn’t our most democratic body reflect that? I’m not sure.
Stay tuned for part 2
2 responses to “Our Broken Senate(s)”
[…] I wrote this during the summer. Never got around to posting it. Here’s part I. […]
I think part of the issue is the body’s limited scope. This is not a means for a social movement-its a body meant to regulate some of the club rules, funding and the like. Occasionally, student union is able to enact a watershed event, a la Jason Grey’s Student Bill of Rights, this is the exception, not the rule, do mostly in part due to the fact that there isn’t much room for exercise of power.