Or, more precisely, who should say what? Should our representatives in Senate and Student Union voice opinions about political issues that may or may not reflect our own? Certainly this is the case in current American politics—US senators frequently take stances on divisive issues that alienate at least some part of their constituencies. I believe, though, that most students would be against SU endorsing any political candidate in a race for presidential election. If SU posted banners around campus saying either, “Wash. U. Pro-Life” or “Wash. U. Pro-Choice,” I would expect much outcry.
Abortion, the economy, immigration, gay rights and war are all obviously complex, heated issues that should be discussed by individuals in a public forum, like Student Life. Furthermore, if like-minded individuals want to form a group to advocate their cause, there are places for them to debate. Potential problems arise when a governing body makes a statement or takes a strong position on one of these issues. SU also has a special potential problem in addition to alienating students in that they exist under the umbrella of Wash. U. and the Wash. U. administration.
So, did the Nov. 4 Senate resolution “In Support of Recent Student Activism” cross a line? How about the “Resolution Calling for the Renaming of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization” passed on Nov. 11? Both have language in them that seems to lean toward or even advocate a certain policy or political stance on energy. Read them and decide—they are available on the SU Web site. Environmental and energy policy is most certainly a political issue, one that many student groups seem to disagree with Wash. U. administration over. Senate appears to have taken a side.
I do not claim to be knowledgeable enough on the issue of clean coal or environmental and energy politics to say whether Senate and the various student groups are right or wrong in their stance. I would suggest to Senate that the implications of taking political stances, or being perceived as taking a political stance on an issue, could be greater than they have considered. At the same time, a legislative body that equivocates on everything is just as undesirable. Senators were elected to use their best judgment, and they should use this judgment to decide where the line is—I trust that being the talented bunch they are, they will.
Daniel is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.