January 23, 2009

Pie in the sky

College Council's allocation of $500 for pizza, turns a good idea sour

When students living in the dorms gather for their next house meeting, they’ll have an unexpected visitor. College Council (CC) members will be dispersing across campus to spread the good word about Student Government (SG). And they’ll be bringing goodies—pizza or cookies, paid for with $500 of student money.

The reasoning behind the visits is relatively sound: SG wants to let students know what it does and wants to hear any student concerns. The first point is perhaps a bit shaky––who really cares about the procedure of SG meetings?––but the second is reasonable. Perhaps some students who might not care enough to find out who their CC reps are would be more willing to express concerns in the informal setting of a house meeting. In the past, SG has held office hours and set up brown-bag lunches, but these have been largely ineffective. It’s refreshing to see a new, good faith idea attempting to reach out to the student body.

The real problem with the plan is the money spent on free food. Pizza at house meetings is certainly a nice treat, but it’s simply not a good use of money, especially considering that there is already food provided. As CC member Prerna Nadathur, one of five representatives to vote against the measure, put it in an e-mail interview: “The food at study breaks, while it might marginally increase the number of students drawn to a house meeting, does not really further the cause of transparency, and the CC funds should be put towards initiatives which more directly affect student welfare and concerns on campus.”

If SG wants to promote itself, it should not be using student funds to do so. And there remains the possibility that the Student Government Finance Committee will approve even more money for the events—which would only make a bad idea worse.

The visits do not have to be a complete waste, however. CC members ought to mention the Uncommon Fund—whose deadline for applications was recently extended—and students should try to raise student-life issues that SG can do something about.

As it stands, many students see SG as all but useless. That belief is not unfounded, but as was proven last year, SG can make changes that have meaningful effects on student life, like reopening the A-level or bringing back Plan B contraceptives to the SCC. Unfortunately, when College Council approves $500 for a needless pizza party, the cynics are proven right.