Campus / News / Student Senate / May 14, 2008

Elections ’08: Debating discourse

On Monday juniors Patrick Herlihey and Elaine Wilson faced off in the debate for Student Senate president.

Over the past year several important issues have been brought to the forefront of campus discussion and they were not left behind in the debate. One of the major issues was Student Senate reform to make it more accessible to the student body.

“I want Student Senate to be open and friendly so that anyone can come to meetings and anyone can submit a resolution,” said Herlihey. “First and foremost, the role of Student Senate is to create an open forum.”

“I think it would be far too chaotic,” said Wilson in response to this proposal. “Constituents could e-mail their senator or president about issues. They could be submitted to a senator a day or two in advance.”

Wilson argued this system Herlihey proposed could make senate meetings unduly long since anyone could submit a resolution.

“Although I do think it should be a bit more relaxed than it is currently,” said Wilson.

Wilson also pointed out that people are currently welcome to come to senate meetings and speak while there, and she would like to increase awareness.

“Student Senate is a venue that [students] can and should use but I fully understand that it can be daunting,” said Wilson.

Herlihey argued the benefits of the new resolution system he proposed.

“The real benefit of anyone and everyone being able to bring a resolution is that it will be heard,” said Herlihey. “It may take us more time, but that time won’t be spent on pointless parliamentary procedure.”

Wilson disagreed about the necessity of opening resolution submission to the campus.

“I view that as secondary to the opinions that are expressed because a resolution is a group opinion, ” said Wilson.

Wilson also spoke on how to improve senate from this past year.

“There has been a certain level of close-mindedness,” said Wilson. “[I want to] open it up to what you all want as a student body.”

One of the solutions she proposed was moving to the Lincoln Room to remove the hierarchical structure of SMC. She argued that having meetings in the Lincoln Room, which is a central area on campus, would encourage more constituents to come to meetings.

“[This will] make it more accessible in a literal way as far as foot traffic goes by and in a metaphorical sense,” said Wilson. “It would really help to be on eye-level with everyone.”

“I don’t think that it will solve every problem but I’d like to see where it goes,” said Wilson.

Wilson argued senate needs to maintain a certain level of being official, while it strives to be more open and accessible to the campus.

“Do I think that there is too much red tape? Absolutely,” said Wilson. “Do I think there needs to be some regulations in place? Yes.”

Wilson also pointed out that she thought some of the most effective forums are unofficial – like the Mudpit.

“We should have non-senate associated forums,” said Wilson.

She said she would love to attend them and would like to encourage senators to attend them and liked that the Mudpit was not connected with Student Senate.

“I hope it stays unaffiliated, because I think that is part of why it was so successful,” said Wilson.

Part of Herlihey’s open door policy would extend to campus events. Herlihey pointed out that clubs like WVKC, which is bringing Girl Talk this Friday, have initiated some of the most successful events.

“I’d like to increase knowledge on campus that you can do that,” said Herlihey.

Another major issue at stake in the election is sustainability; both candidates want the sustainability committee to be a priority in the coming years.

Wilson stressed that she has three years of experience of being able to see what works, and what does not, in Senate. She mentioned that there are ways to improve Senate’s role on campus as compared with the ‘07-‘08 school year.

One of the major issues that has arisen on campus is the perceived disconnect between Greek and non-Greek members of the community.

“I don’t think there should be a delineation between Greeks and independents,” said Wilson.

“The Greek issue very clearly has many layers,” said Herlihey, suggesting that there should also be more and better options for houses for non-Greeks as well as reform to the party application system.

The topic of the debate soon moved towards student-faculty relations on campus.

Wilson pointed out that the faculty is a “great resource to us” but can sometimes be disconnected from student life.

“I don’t think they understand the impact of some of the decisions they make in their meetings,” said Wilson. “They work here five hours a day, five days a week and then they go home, but we live here.”

Another major concern brought up in the debate was the nature of interaction between the Student Senate president and the administration.

“[I want to] find that middle ground of polite and respectful, but at the same time I would never sell out a single goal of the students to make things easier with the administration,” said Herlihey.

Another topic that came up regarded admissions and how those decisions should be made.

“I would like Knox to stay highly selective,” said Wilson. “I really like the Knox student because there isn’t a typical Knox student.”

“First and foremost we need to remain a need blind institution,” said Herlihey on his perspective of admissions policy.

The candidates were also asked to comment on what they wanted to see from Wallace Lounge. Herlihey wanted to use it as club storage space until renovation plans were underway.

“As soon as we have funding I’d like to see it be a bar, preferably a Duffy’s themed bar,” said Herlihey.

Wilson said that there were plans already in motion regarding the future of Wallace.

“[It would be] a fancier Gizmo style grill bistro as I understand it,” said Wilson. “It looks like it will be great for future Knox students.”

When discussion turned to their merits Wilson pointed out that she was incredibly accessible, approachable and level-headed.

Both senators have had experience in executive roles. Herlihey served as communications officer his first year and vice president his sophomore year while Wilson has served as communications officer the past two years.

The candidates also spoke about how dedicated they would be able to be to the position of president next year should they be elected.

“I will be able to devote most, 80 percent, of my time to Student Senate and I’d love to do that,” said Herlihey.

“I’ve always place Student Senate above all other commitments and almost on par with my academics,” said Wilson, also citing her time management skills.

As always, the candidates were asked if they thought that Flunk Day could continue at Knox College. Wilson pointed out the great track record that Knox has had at keeping the event safe.

“I don’t think Flunk Day is going anywhere,” said Wilson.

Herlihey agreed that Flunk Day was here to stay as he cited the Knox community’s willingness to look out for each other.

“I would rather die than see Flunk Day go away,” said Herlihey.

Both candidates have been campaigning this week with Herlihey hosting Pizza with Patrick on the Gizmo Patio on Tuesday and Wilson tabling on Wednesday.

Anjali Pattanayak

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