The Student Government College Council (CC) debated a new proposal to reform constituent communication Thursday night, following growing internal discontent with perceptions of the Council as being disconnected and inconsequential.
Under the plan, introduced in a memo issued earlier this week by third-year representative Kyle Lee, elected council members would be responsible for more frequent and direct personal communication with their “ward,” consisting of one-fourth of their class.
Each representative would e-mail meeting summaries and solicit suggestions from his or her constituents on a weekly basis in the hope of facilitating dialogue between the student government and College students.
“For too long, a rift has existed between the College Council and the undergraduate student population. After the election cycle, all communication with students seems to bottom out, and that makes us just 16 students sitting in a room bouncing our own ideas back and forth,” Lee said. “By dividing each class into wards or divisions and assigning one representative to each, we will foster a rapport between a given student and their representative and streamline the idea flow.”
Recently, some members of SG have voiced frustration with the bureaucracy of the Council and what they perceive as a disconnect between the opinion of the student body and the actions of the CC.
“I noticed a real problem with communication and campaigned on this when I ran for Executive Slate. In meetings with the [Graduate Council], CC, and with President Zimmer, I have expressed this problem to be one of the most serious problems at the University,” said graduate student and SG President Ian Muhlhauser. “The efficacy of Kyle’s proposal will have to be debated, but I am really happy that we are now receiving some intelligent and creative responses to this issue.”
Specifically, council members have expressed dismay over both CC’s inability to quickly pass a resolution denouncing the University’s decision not to divest from Sudan and the failed effort to remove Lee from office after allegedly homophobic remarks directed toward second-year Ryan Kaminski. Some representatives felt that both measures had widespread support from the student body, but that communication issues hindered action by the Council.
“[CC] has failed to deliver on the clearest desires and most explicit demands of the students of the University it was elected to serve,” wrote Kaminski in a Maroon editorial last week. “By repeatedly disregarding the opinions of the University’s undergraduate population, College Council has moved dangerously close to validating virtually every common conception of student government being generally ineffective, undemocratic, nothing but a ‘résumé-builder’ for its members, and ultimately an exercise in futility.”
Although there seemed to be a general sentiment toward some sort of improved communication with the student body, council members questioned the feasibility of Lee’s plan.
“Logistically, there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered,” said third-year CC Chair Scott Duncombe. “How would we divide up the blocks—do students get to choose who they want as representatives? Could we even get the list of names from the administration? The plan has a lot of potential, but some of the details need to be figured out.”
In fact, Kaminski stood as one of the plan’s principal opponents, arguing that personal ideological differences and politicking could alienate even more students from communicating with SG. Instead, he proposed increasing the voice and power of the student liaison to the Board of Trustees.
“In every SG document there is discussion of promoting the interests of the Student Association, not individual districts or separate parts,” wrote Kaminski in an e-mail to the SG listhost. “I think this plan would be contrary to the spirit of the SG constitution, bylaws, and past precedent and would require massive reform.”
The CC tabled the issue until their meeting next week and planned to further explore the feasibility of getting student e-mail contacts from the administration and the responsiveness of the student body to the proposal in that time.