Section: Opinion

Campus Senate needs to be open

Campus Senate has a lot of work to do to become a viable governmental body for the campus. Even President Sean Decatur has expressed ignorance of what the organization actually does, and we would not be surprised if more than a few students, faculty and administrators shared in this lack of knowledge. We know the Collegian does.

That’s because meetings of Campus Senate are closed to the press, according to Sarah Heidt, Senate co-chair and associate professor of English. The rationale for this decision is familiar: that conversations in Senate will be more “honest” and free-flowing without the presence of meddling media. But this reasoning — while dubious when applied to the College’s board of trustees meetings — is even more unacceptable when it comes to a group partly made up of students who are elected to those positions and make policies that affect other students’ lives. As Senate reexamines its purpose, it should prioritize transparency. Senate cannot realize its mission of being a representative decision-making body if its meetings are closed to the media.

Further, Senate must work with partners within the College to more clearly define its role on campus. It’s troubling that Decatur, well into his third year as president, says he’s not “up to speed” on what Senate does. This may be because Senate proposes and passes policies that students then ignore. To be a fully legitimate and effective legislature Senate must have a clear enforcement body backing its resolutions.

Senate isn’t the only collegiate body at fault for not following through with its policies. It appears there is little communication between student government, student affairs, Campus Safety and the president’s office about how rules — specifically those enacted by amorphous student bodies — are or should be enforced.

Do we want Campus Safety citing students for smoking in non-sanctioned spaces? Or do we want the community to shame those students into smoking elsewhere? And, since neither seems to happen, does this indicate the community doesn’t agree with these policies in the first place?

We don’t know, but we should have a conversation about it as a community, maybe at an open Campus Senate meeting.

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