For all the discussion on campus of U.S. politics or current events, students fail to participate in — or even pay attention to — their most local form of government: Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) Senate. Lack of student engagement in Senate is exemplified by a generalized apathy surrounding Senate’s actions this year, allowing the body to carry out its duties (including an overhaul of the ASOC constitution) unchecked.
As the governing body of ASOC, Senate must be held to rigorous standards, and it is students’ responsibility to hold their elected leaders accountable. During the 2014–15 school year, issues in Senate erupted with the impeachment of the ASOC president, but since then, students have expressed little apparent interest in the student government whose primary aim is in their service. Few students participated in the feedback meetings hosted by Senate advisor Tamara Himmelstein during the review period of proposed changes to ASOC’s constitution during the fall semester, and there is little regular student presence at open Senate meetings.
While students are busy with classes and other activities and cannot necessarily dedicate hours weekly to observing their student government, they should still feel a degree of civic duty, if only because it behooves students to pay attention to their elected officials. Senate commands a significant amount of money — according to the 2015–16 budget, ASOC’s total expenses top $700,000 — that comes directly from students through annual student body fees. Senate’s funding allocations impact the opportunities students have in their extracurricular activities, as well as what programs and services are available to them. These decisions should undergo rigorous debate, with students advocating for their interests and senators expecting scrutiny from their constituents.
Students are eager to condemn the school’s administration for issues on campus, and while the administration holds much of the power to make the changes students demand, students must also hold their senators accountable, as they have significant power and resources to positively impact student life.
In the end, student participation will increase the efficacy of Senate — and may prompt tangible changes on campus — enabling the organization more accurately meet the needs of its constituents.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of The Occidental Weekly editorial board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.