To SU: Let this be a wake-up call

We are deeply concerned about the high number of resignations from Student Union this semester. We are even more concerned that Student Union does not seem to share our sense of unease.

Ten students have resigned from Student Union so far this year. Given the relatively small number of students who hold positions of leadership within Student Union, this number is staggering. When Vice President of Administration Trevor Mattea announced his resignation last week, he explicitly cited frustrations with the operation and structure of Student Union as part of the impetus behind his decision.

We believe that the large number of resignations and Mattea’s recent public criticism provide a massive opportunity for Student Union to make changes where necessary. SU needs to assess what it sees as its purposes, and hold itself accountable in pursuit.

SU’s motto for the 2009-2010 school year was to “Renew Student Activism.” But student activism is, in fact, being renewed on this campus, as evidenced by student support for the Right Side of History, and the student-organized protest and subsequent activism regarding the Mothers Bar discrimination incident.

However, these instances of student activism did not stem from SU initiatives, and the renewal of student activism on platforms separate from those launched by student government suggests that the problem at hand is not that students on this campus are apathetic, but rather, that the student government is not effectively engaged with the student body. This disconnect is further demonstrated by the resignations, which show that many of the leaders elected to the governing body are also not engaged with the SU.

SU executives, senators and Treasury representatives expend countless hours working to better the experience of the undergraduate community at Wash. U. It’s important that these hours are not wasted. SU spends much of its time and resources enforcing tradition instead of connecting with the students it represents, which oftentimes results in self-serving formalities and buzzwords instead of organic connections to the student body. Recent programming such as the tailgating initiative has good intentions, but SU needs to recognize that the success of its programmatic initiatives relies on genuine connections with students, not administrative rhetoric and coordination.

After re-evaluating SU’s purposes and submitting its processes to an evaluation of efficiency, members of SU need to take strides to promote effective communication with students. In the appropriate context, the benefits of such communication would be twofold, ensuring both that the student body engages with SU initiatives and that SU continues to stay well informed about student preferences and campus happenings.

The Senate elections next Wednesday and Thursday present an opportunity for much-needed fresh voices to be heard in our student government. We encourage new Senate candidates to enter SU aware of the necessity of enhancing SU’s relevance and ensuring that the $2.1 million SU budget goes toward genuinely improving this campus.

It is easy to blame student apathy for the apparent disconnect between SU and the student body. But the recent instances of student activism demonstrate that our student body is active, engaged and willing to unite behind shared beliefs. SU must re-examine its priorities and the way its members use their time if it is to make student government relevant to its constituents.

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