seriously to gain student respect
The Student Senate strives to be taken seriously in its quest to represent the Notre Dame student body.
In its mission to represent students to administrators, Senate assumes both groups acknowledged its privileged role.
But it's evident that voters don't take Student Senate seriously when they elect representatives who cannot fully commit to their positions.
It's evident that some elected members don't view Senate as a serious organization when they are tardy to or absent from meetings while participating in alternative commitments.
And it's evident that Senate can't even take itself seriously when it fails to enforce its own policies.
Earlier this year, senators passed the Attendance Policy Amendment 25-0, requiring the Senate Ethics Committee to issue a warning to any senator who has missed four meetings. Five absences would result in a hearing that could possibly lead to expulsion.
Since then, at least two senators have violated the attendance rule. The Student Senate has taken no disciplinary action.
Attendance at Senate meetings and subcommittee meetings is obviously a crucial responsibility of senators. The organization's own amendment acknowledges the importance of regular attendance and timely arrival. Representatives from each dorm must be present so that they may inform their hall communities of new student government developments. Senators, therefore, should enforce the guidelines they themselves designed.
Student Senate cannot be an effective advocate for students to change University policies if it does not consistently follow its own.
Students have a right to know how they are being represented in student government. The fact that voters are largely unconcerned about the attendance of student senators not only places the senators in a negative light, but it is also a sign that student government is not viewed as a serious organization that necessitates the attendance of its members.
Fingers can be pointed in many directions in this case: the voters for not caring about the participation of their representatives, the representatives for failing to comply with the rules of Student Senate, senators for not addressing the issue, and finally, Senate leaders for failing to enforce the organization's policy.
It is now imperative that the Student Senate enhances its credibility with the student body. Enforcing its own resolutions is one step toward earning respect from students. If Senate itself doesn't take its policies seriously, how can it begin to expect students and administrators to treat policies regarding parietals and alcohol policy?
The Senate has the power to act as a voice for the students and has done so in the past. In order to be an effective voice for students, members must attend meetings where ideas emerge and work begins. But internal flaws belie external productivity.
It is time for the Senate to iron out its many kinks. The student body deserves a productive Senate that can be taken seriously.
And if Senate doesn't take its own actions seriously, it certainly can't expect anyone else to.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, November 25, 2002