As the co-editors-in-chief, we have made an effort to sit in on all Student Government (S.G.) meetings this semester in order to better understand the work they do and keep the student body informed. Based on our experience there are quite a lot of comments that we would like to share as S.G. prepares to undergo elections, and hopefully this article will create positive change as the new class of senators take office.
The Drew University Undergraduate Student Government is ineffectual. While some may argue that all governments are ineffectual by nature, small local and school governments should be a chance to make positive change. However, there seems to be little effort from S.G. itself to remedy their shortcomings and make it an effective body.
First, it is important to know that a good portion of the senate was appointed to their positions, not elected. This is because not enough people run for the positions and people drop out mid semester so they need replacements. Additionally, when a position goes vacant, there is seldom an announcement to the entire student body calling for people interested in filling the seat. This has lead to the senate being made up of friends of current senate and cabinet members; maybe this is one of the reasons the conversations often get sidetracked.
Over the past semester there are some issues that are brought up again and again, like summer storage and theft at commons; the senators talk about it in circles without volunteering to take action. That is if they even take it seriously. S.G. seems like a joke to many of the senators, with discussions often devolving into loud boisterous conversation about unrelated topics, such as smoothies or Netflix suggestions. We understand the meetings can be tedious and it makes sense that the senators grow comfortable joking with each other, but as constituents it is very discouraging to have senators laugh off issues that are of importance to you. Sometimes senators will propose an actual issue to discuss, such as the prevalence of outsiders constantly walking dogs on campus, and be completely disregarded by other senators because the dogs are cute. On the other hand, senators sometime seem to take ridiculous suggestions and ideas seriously, such as the idea to hold a groundhog vigil.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW UNIVERSITY STUDENT GOVERNMENT
Watching the S.G. meetings can be painful at times, as some senators have even gone as far as to make racist and homophobic comments during meetings and faced no repercussions. Allowing people with these dangerous mindsets to serve on S.G. is reprehensible and irresponsible. While the platform of this administration was to make S.G. feel more accessible to the student body, if you are a person of color or identify with the LGBTQ+ community, you will not feel welcome in these meetings. How are we supposed to bring issues to our representatives if we feel uncomfortable in the meetings? For example, the fact that there was such strong opposition, especially by a member of the cabinet itself, against creating the position of international senator made for a very hostile environment where international students would have not felt safe to voice their concerns.
Following the veto discussion that recently arose in S.G., it is important to point out that the current Senate has not earned, in our opinion, the right to override a presidential veto. Between semi-serious talks of spending S.G. money on a groundhog vigil, suggesting using the S.G.’s premium Canva (paid for with university funds) for personal projects and their childish approach to student politics, the reality is that giving the senate so much power without any checks seems dangerous. This is not so much a reflection of the current president’s judgement, but the senate’s inability to behave or take S.G. seriously.
The reality seems to be that no one seems to care about Student Government, both the student body and the senate itself. Perhaps the way to get student government to actually take their role seriously is to have the student body be more invested in what they are doing. According to the poll we conducted this week, almost two thirds of the student body do not know who their representatives are. The student body should hold Student Government accountable, and that means putting in effort as well.