Action and Inertia
Perhaps, after reading a number of anti-Senatorial articles in the Dickinsonian this year, I shouldn’t be surprised by this dearth of civic involvement. Perhaps students feel that Senate is a bureaucratic mess that lacks efficacy in decision-making relating to college issues. Perhaps students are too busy with schoolwork to attend the Tuesday meetings. Perhaps students are just lazy.
I can’t preach from the pulpit here. I’ve never joined Senate. I’ve personally dealt with Senate on some issues – filing complaints when they set up the table with the free pens in the Caf, submitting budgets for a couple different clubs, etc. – and that’s about the extent of my involvement with them. I remember something about no longer being able to see what room someone lives in on Gateway, and bright neon signs that advertise what they can and can’t do. Apparently (I’m on the phone with someone on Senate while writing this) they were instrumental in the revolutionary SNAR renovations. I’m hearing rumors that a burrito bar is coming. And… that’s about it. Maybe. I’ll let someone on Senate write a LTE to correct me. Revision: apparently they are also responsible for the speakers in the Quarry. Oh, and they spent a lot of money on office furniture.
I’ve found that when I do file a complaint – namely to address the incredibly inadequate club sports structure – change is slow. Like most bureaucracies, it takes time, and I understand that. But for a complaint that I filed last fall, there hasn’t been any change. In fact, the budget for the club that I’m a member of was still negatively impacted by a fundamentally poor structure on budgets that is slowly, slowly (maybe?) being addressed. I’ve tried to help with this issue multiple times by offering my personal experience as someone who actually submits club budgets and someone who actually has played club sports (which technically don’t exist; this is the core of the problem), and have been regularly told that they don’t need any help. But while it is tempting to lay all the blame on the people that we elect – and if this year is any indication, this is a process that occurs de facto – that seems simply wrong. My issue with their funding structure for club sports apparently did not motivate me to actually seek office myself to redress the policy. I didn’t even bring it up two years ago when it was a problem. If the pens weren’t there, I probably wouldn’t have even filed a complaint in the first place. Maybe I should temper my criticism when I’m not willing to really take action.
What I’m getting at is that successful government requires active participation from the people. This applies to both student government and the national government. I think Senate can do more, and do better for the Dickinson community. Great. But when I’m not willing to act on this, pony up and run myself or stage a protest, it at least partially falls on me.
Big change has happened here at Dickinson when people demand it. Look at the sexual violence protest. It changed college policy. And, in a different light, look at the Idea Fund. These are instances of real change happening that came from active involvement of passionate people. Both Senate and the students it governs should take note.