Discourse / Editorials / Student Senate / April 23, 2009

Thoughts from the Embers: Senate bias

Whether you’re queer, a feminist, a humorist, or live in a tree, anyone could observe that the actions of Senate last week were childish and abhorrent.

Our reporter, Klayr Valentine-Fossum, lost track of how many times senators spoke out of turn, calling each other such things as “douchebag,” “racist,” and other derogatory names. It happened over and over again; someone would say something controversial, Senate would erupt, and President Elaine Wilson would bang her gavel to start the cycle over. While we understand that the issue of theme houses comes up each in year in senate as a hot topic, the actions taken by our representatives last week should have constituents on their toes.

The main reason for such outbursts was the concern that the process by which the Residential Quality of Life Committee made the decisions for theme housing was biased. The number of senators on the committee that applied for and received houses was enough to call it a conflict of interest, but the decision-making process was also biased. While the senators who were applying for a house sat out when the call was made on their houses, they were involved in the decisions behind the houses competing with them.

Attempting to solve this problem, Senate came up with a new process which, unsurprisingly, was also biased. The senators were allowed to vote to remove houses that the Residential Quality of Life Committee had suggested for housing, and put them back on the drawing board with the houses that were not selected. They could also vote to keep some of the houses that Residential Quality of Life Committee had recommended.

But if Senate had agreed that the process was biased, why didn’t they scrap all of their decisions and start from scratch? The bias existed within the decision-making process: thus, all the houses that were selected went through that same process. Instead of throwing back all the houses and starting over from an agreed upon unbiased place, Senate sent a signal that their irritation was with two houses in particular.

The Feminist House and the Q and A house were both removed from the recommended list. Yes, these houses should have been reconsidered, but so should the other houses have been. Instead, by singling out these houses in particular, Senate sends the signal, intentional or not, that they discriminate against these groups.

If we want senate to have more say in how the campus is run, then senate needs to show the administration and faculty that they are capable of handling controversial issues in a civil manner. In his column, Trevor Sorenson said that those who acted up at the meeting didn’t represent Senate as a whole, but that’s a copout: Senate can’t pick out and disown the bad apples when they do something that reflects badly on them. People who call names, shout out of order, and climb over tables during Senate meetings do not represent a Senate that is mature enough to be trusted with important student issues.

TKS Staff

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