Student Senate should see strengthened service

With the campus election season now in full swing, the Elections Board announced that, after petition validation, there were no candidates running in the Tepper School of Business, the Mellon College of Science, or the School of Computer Science. Not a single undergraduate student in any of those three colleges had the desire or motivation to have their petition signed and to be a part of Undergraduate Student Senate.

While we can blame weak marketing this election cycle, this is likely part of a larger, more long-term problem regarding students’ lack of understanding of what Senate is and what Senate does. Without understanding the importance of having representation on a college level, students see no need to become representatives.

We at The Tartan have seen Senate accomplish many of the goals it has set out to meet. It sends its representatives to a number of student advisory councils around the university. It brings in special guests and speakers, who ask the Student Senators for their opinions. (See this week’s story on President Cohon on page A1.) It distributes approximately $90,000 per year in special allocations to other groups and organizations. Yet, this year, three colleges have effectively stated they have absolutely no interest in being represented, and not a single seat in the entire Senate is contested. Every person on the ballot will become a Senator, and a handful more will win with write-in votes in the single digits.

The election process for Senate is supposed to allow the most qualified, most involved, and most enthusiastic members of each of the colleges a voice to represent the needs and wants of the rest of the members of their respective schools. However, the interests of the individual colleges cannot and will not be served if there are no students to speak up for them. And by denying themselves a representative in Senate, the students in these three schools are effectively ensuring that their desires will be put at the very bottom of a long list. Students need to understand that being a part of Senate or having a representative on Senate championing them is vital.

The Senate elections this year are a farce. They are not based on credentials or recruiting motivated students; they are not even a popularity contest. This year, Senate has explicitly become a volunteer organization — anyone who wants to can join and try to keep student government functioning.