Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Our Opinion: Looking forward to a fuller, more engaged student senate

Posted on January 27, 2015 in Our Opinion, Perspectives
By USM Free Press

The student senate had an opportunity to make becoming a senator easier than ever at their last meeting by doing away with rules requiring applicants to gather supporting signatures from the student body, but in the end decided to stick by the rule and enforce the process.

We applaud the senate for sticking to their policies. The petitioning process forces applicants to get out into the community, out of their comfort zone and get a feel for what students around USM want and need to see in the senate. While talking to strangers may seem awkward, it’s important to know who you’re representing and prove that you’re dedicated to the job. The senate has been plagued with attendance and membership problems since the beginning of the academic year, like a lot of student groups on campus, and changing the rules to accept anyone into the organization can be tempting. We’re glad the senate has committed itself to finding and keeping students who are going to be in it for the long run.

That being said, the system in place isn’t all that impressive or complex. Senators used to have to gather 100 signatures, but that number has been cut down to only 25. Going out and talking to 25 people doesn’t exactly mean someone is qualified to handle the responsibility of distributing the student activity fee. As one recently elected senator mentioned at last week’s meeting, people like to sign things and generally don’t turn down someone with a clipboard. Like clipboard-wielding activists who turn up on sidewalks every election season, getting the signatures takes time, but doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is making connections. If anything, we wish the application could be more extensive, requiring applicants to have a list of goals or outreach projects ready to go before they’re even appointed.

In the senate’s efforts to increase membership and rebrand itself, it should look to popular and engaged student organizations for ways to connect with students more. Like one member of the gallery said at last week’s weeks meeting, the student body knows that the senate does a lot, but doesn’t know anything about the details of senate meetings or what its purpose is.

We hope that the new senate buddy system and assigning senators to speak directly to student groups will help promote a more collaborative community that aims to better the lives of all students at USM.

Our fingers are crossed and we’re hoping for a contested election come spring.

Our Opinion is written and reviewed by the Free Press editorial board. 


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