Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Senate seat reduction yields mixed results one year later

Leah Kucera | Student Life
A year after Student Union Senate voted to shrink its body from 28 to 22, its races range from competitive to uncontested or even nonexistent.

While five students are running for two Engineering School seats, only one Business student is running for the school’s one open seat, five are running for six typically competitive Arts & Sciences seats and no one is running for one open Art School seat. Students can vote in SU’s fall election online from 9 a.m. Thursday to 5 p.m. Friday. Voters will also decide on SU Treasury candidates and block funding proposals.

SU Senate removed three seats last semester, and after this election, it will have eliminated six seats—four from the College of Arts & Sciences and one each from the engineering and business schools.

Senior Neel Desai, speaker of the Senate, said that reducing the number of SU Senate seats has already started to have an impact, whether in the competitiveness of elections or the effectiveness of the body itself.

“It’s impossible to say this is the one cause for all the changes, but I’m sure that [it] has made a difference, even if it’s a subtle difference,” Desai said. “When the body is a little bit smaller, I think it creates a better dynamic and makes people more accountable to one another. I think we’ve had better results this semester.”

Desai said he thinks this year’s election has a more positive slant than many in the past, particularly the one after SU Treasury voted to fund an appearance by Bristol Palin and newcomers swarmed seats promising increased accountability.

“People aren’t trying to fix [things]…they’re trying to further what we’re doing,” he said.

Sophomore Shane Carr, running to hold onto his Senate seat against four other Engineering School students, said he had handed out about 100 campaign buttons as of Wednesday evening.

“The fact that there is so much competition for the Engineering Senate seats this election incentivizes me to make sure that the way I stand on issues is well-publicized to the voters,” Carr said. “The fact that I am an incumbent as opposed to a new person to Student Union comes with its advantages and its disadvantages.”

Carr was chosen as an SU senator last year in an election between five Engineering School students, though in that election there were three open seats rather than two.

Leah Kucera | Student Life

“The goal with having fewer seats is to make senators more accountable to their constituents. And I think that is playing out to some degree, but the change is new enough that we still have to see in this next term or two whether that is turning out to be achieved,” he said.

In addition to 13 students running for 11 SU Senate seats, there are 15 students running for 12 open seats in the SU Treasury.

“Going to some of the meetings and seeing how it’s all allocated and done is interesting,” said freshman and SU Treasury candidate Jordan Finkelstein.

Finkelstein, who also ran for Freshman Class Council earlier this semester, said running for SU Treasury has encouraged him to reach out to a broader cross-section of the student body.

“It’s not super competitive…but it’s still competitive so it is very important to get name recognition out there,” he added. “Even if you lose, campaigning and getting to meet new people—it builds you up and it’s a good experience.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878