Slates need a reality check

By Jeremy Guttman

The Student Government (SG) executive slate is an excellent and necessary conduit between the students, administrators, and faculty. I have very little SG experience, and I thought that the people running for SG this year would be much more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. But what I heard at the SG debates the other night was not very inspiring. I ask the question, how much influence does an executive slate really have over certain things? Where should its priorities lie? Lofty goals are honorable, but not at the expense of everything else. I just don’t see the connection between the great things a slate can do in a year and what they’re talking about doing.

Most of what the candidates were saying at the SG debate was not real. They weren’t suggesting good, concrete, innovative, realistic ideas, in the vein of a 24-hour study space. An executive slate does a lot more than most people perceive. They sit on and appoint students to numerous important committees. They help plan for the future, often well beyond their own graduations. But we’re not talking about the Supreme Court here. The University isn’t going to face some crisis in dire need of strong, well-credentialed executive slate leaders. SG elections should be about good ideas and finding out what students care about and what can be improved in that regard. It’s all well and good if a slate will “fight” for more money given annually for SGFC to allocate, but I have a feeling that those funds will increase with demand, regardless of whether a slate is viciously fighting for it or not. I keep hearing statements about things that slates don’t have the power to influence very much, or things that don’t necessarily need support from an executive slate. The A bus isn’t going to move to a 30 minute schedule. It’s on a 40-minute schedule because it takes 40 minutes to complete its route. Moving the Amandla Student Resource Center will probably have a lot more to do with the Master Plan. I’m sure all the (serious) executive slates support expanding the Amandla Center. So what? And why would a slate take a stand against the Kalven report? Who cares if a slate doesn’t support the Kalven report? Certainly not anyone with the authority to alter the Kalven report, that’s for sure. Maybe taking stances on issues is what slates are supposed to do. It’s just that the issues the current slates are addressing are not, in my mind, all that they should be talking about.

The one and only thing I liked hearing at the debates was when Mustafa Domaniç, presidential candidate for This Charming Slate, talked about Northwestern’s shuttle buses. It’s doubtful that the drunk van service will be expanded, though maybe it is worth fighting for. However, I think comparing our school’s policies to those of peer institutions is always a great idea. Did you know that Northwestern students get cable TV on their computers in their dorm rooms through their ethernet cables? Many colleges provide free cable and free newspapers to their students. Why don’t we?

I’m not in any RSOs, I’m not a minority, and I’ve only used the drunk van a handful of times. So here’s what I think should change in the next year; issues which none of the slates have currently addressed: The add/drop registrar system should interface better with the college catalog, time schedules, and course evaluations. All courses should have descriptions. Course evaluations should be improved to be more useful and thorough. The five buses that serve the Shoreland should have their schedules put onto one piece of paper; then students might actually carry the schedule with them. Someone should set up a website that lets students personally customize what lectures, performances, meetings, and events they want to hear about. This would involve conglomerating all of these events into one place. Such a place is not currently available with the inefficient glut of calendars, listhost emails, and word of mouth. I’m also a big fan of making it as easy as possible for students to travel outside the University. Maybe Northwestern wins that category as well. All I know is that whichever slate wins the upcoming election, it’d better spend more time asking the student body what we actually want changed in the next year.