Proposed treasury amendment is good first step
The proposed amendment to the Treasury seat allocation process that is up for a vote Thursday is an excellent first step in creating a better-engaged student government at Washington University. We applaud Student Union for taking steps to ensure that students from every school are represented in student government and the allocation of our student activity fee. However, changing the seat allocation process on Treasury only alleviates one symptom of the larger problem of low student involvement in SU as a whole. Moreover, requiring 75 votes for write-in candidates severely limits the possibility of write-in candidates from smaller undergraduate schools and tilts Treasury representation in favor of larger schools like Arts & Sciences, which is already overrepresented.
Nearly every undergraduate at Wash. U. is involved in a student group that receives part of the $2.5 million-plus in activities fees that we all pay into, yet interest in student government is notoriously low here. Student Union should take additional steps to engage the student body in the distribution of the activities fee.
While it is understandable that many students do not have the time or patience to commit to being on Treasury or Senate, it is still surprising that so few students have interest in student government at Wash. U. Perhaps it has to do with the numerous negative interactions that student groups have had with Treasury. It is truly a rare occasion for a student group to leave a Treasury appeal happy with the amount of funding it has received. What these student groups fail to realize is that they could remedy this situation if they were represented on Treasury. The solution to a failure to secure funds from SU is not to gripe but to participate.
Treasury and SU as a whole could also take larger steps toward ensuring more diverse representation in their organizations. One possible route would be limiting the overrepresentation of certain schools. While the Olin School of Business houses only 762 of 6,483 full-time undergraduate students (based on statistics from Fall 2012), it holds a third of all Treasury seats. While it is understandable that Treasury would rather have someone in a seat instead of no one, the disproportionate representation of the business school in Treasury skews funding allocations and appeals at least on a subconscious level.
The 75-vote requirement for write-in candidates also limits the ability of smaller schools to get onto Treasury. Ensuring that the highest-voted student from all schools can acquire a seat on Treasury is a good first step, but with only 168 students, nearly half of the architecture school would have to write in a candidate for it to acquire a write-in seat on Treasury. In comparison, a little less than 2 percent of the College of Arts & Sciences’ 3,980 students would have to write in a candidate for the candidate to be eligible for a seat. This system makes it disproportionately difficult for students from smaller schools to get into Treasury. It is also worth noting that no art or architecture students are currently on Treasury and consequently were unable to vote on this amendment when it was passed through Treasury.
Overall, both SU and the student body as a whole need to do a better job engaging and including diverse perspectives in how student money is allocated. Student Union needs to reach out to smaller undergraduate schools to increase their participation in student government, and all undergraduate students at Wash. U. need to understand that they have the ability to wield far more influence over their student activity fee than they realize.