Student government accomplishes little in half-term

The student government executives, Student Senate, Graduate Student Assembly, and various associated committees that form student government have had almost five months — half of their term — to work on projects and improve the student experience at Carnegie Mellon. In this time, these student leaders have achieved some of their goals, but overall we continue to see a disappointing lack of leadership in student government.

The Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) has been the most functional body of student government again this semester. With representation organized at the department rather than the college level, GSA members have been able to keep up to date with issues their specific constituencies care about. They can — and do — effectively address issues facing the graduate student community. GSA has also continued its success at organizing popular events, including the beer-tasting event held at Phipps Conservatory last week.

Student Senate, on the other hand, has suffered from a lack of focus. Part of this is due to the fact that members are elected at the level of entire colleges instead of close-knit departments. Senators for the Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences, for example, cannot be expected to represent the interests of creative writing majors, information systems majors, and economics majors simultaneously. The goals that Senate has achieved have been lackluster and small in scope.

For many students, especially those in student organizations, Senate’s main purpose is providing special allocations for unplanned expenses. To better connect with its constituents and represent the diverse undergraduate student body, Senate should reconsider its election procedures to be more specific than overall colleges. In doing so, we hope that it will generate more interest in its non-financial activities.

The student government executive branch is another large component of student government. It has gone on relatively unnoticed since its members were elected last year. The executive branch is led by Student Body President Jake Flittner and Student Body Vice President Sangita Sharma; although Flittner and Sharma have been in office all semester, we have seen no accomplishments and no attempts at communication, despite several opportunities.

We have no idea what Flittner and Sharma are doing with their $10,000 budget, or what happened to the promised “Friday Frenzies” that the candidates said would be their first action upon taking office. The executive branch should be providing leadership for the rest of student government and the entire student body. Halfway through this administration’s tenure, the signs of leadership are conspicuously absent.

The student government executive branch and Senate need to reform their leadership and make this new direction more apparent to students. The letter from Senate at the bottom right corner of this page highlights various initiatives, but they have not had enough of an effect on the student body as a whole. Greater initiatives need to be taken before smaller accomplishments are praised.

Taking measures to inform the campus community of student government initiatives would help create a greater level of communication between student government and the students they represent. By utilizing campus media, holding office hours, or just maintaining a dialogue with students, student government may truly improve the student experience at Carnegie Mellon.