A common and consistent theme in student government campaigns at Carnegie Mellon is a promise of increased visibility or transparency — the notion that student government needs to communicate better with the people it represents and be clearer about its aims. Student government is notoriously bad at this very basic task, a point that has been made plain to me during my interactions with students who are unaware, for example, who their Student Senate representatives are or that the student body president actually represents and is elected by all students, including graduate students.
While these misunderstandings may seem trivial, they are simply symptoms of a larger issue — that student government needs to work to better position itself as the first line of defense for students who are having problems or want to change something on campus.
This week, Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly passed significant revisions to our governing documents that added a new executive-level position, the vice president for organizations (VPO). The VPO, like the vice president for finance, will be elected by all students each spring and will be charged with chairing the Committee on Student Organizations (CoSO) and acting as a general advocate for student organizations.
While the addition of the VPO cannot solve the problem of student government approachability overnight, I believe it’s a major step in the right direction. Too often, student organizations on campus feel as if they are in a constant fight against bureaucracy — struggling to get the funding they need, in a battle for the little space on campus afforded to them, and having trouble publicizing events and recruiting members.
It’s my hope that the VPO role will put student government in a much stronger position to help student organizations navigate the complicated tangle of contracts, rules, and procedures that they have to deal with on a daily basis, and to make improvements to those processes whenever possible.
This spring, Student Senate is also going to be doing our best to ask for your advice and feedback — but don’t wait for us to come to you. We meet weekly on Thursdays at 5 p.m. in Margaret Morrison 103 (Breed Hall), and all of our meetings are open for student participation and questions.
You elected us — now make sure that we’re hearing what you have to say. You can get in touch with me by e-mailing student-senate@.