Discourse / Letters / May 28, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Senate insight

There have been multiple allegations made against the Senate over the past month, many of which have gone beyond the scope of Senate, attacking people based on their character rather than their elected positions. I respond today as next year’s treasurer, a current senator, a feminist, a minority, and a Knox student.

Last week’s editorial by junior Ashley Atkinson made serious, though subtle, accusations. I refrained from responding in the past weeks to support free and open discourse that could be both positive and beneficial to the community. However, that “discourse” has reached a point where it has ceased to yield constructive ideas and has become merely a slinging match of insults intended to do nothing but abuse and defame the character of many members of the Senate.

There has been an outcry from members of the student body regarding changes that need to be made. I do not deny that change would benefit the community. I do, however, believe that inducing change by slandering members of an institution does not bring forth positive results. I believe that the campus would benefit from an audio recording of Senate each week, that committees should publish a summary of the meeting, and that senators should be accountable for both their presence and their votes.

That being said, I do not believe that one person can represent the voice of all minorities when she has repeatedly sought to fan the flames of a movement to suppress free thought. One of the earliest problems that resulted from the housing issue was a supposed ‘attack’ on the feminists of this campus. I saw nothing that was intended to silence, intimidate, or suppress Atkinson’s opinions and, as a feminist, I was deeply hurt by her accusation in a previous editorial that I was not a ‘real feminist’ because I did not support her application for theme housing. The general “you’re with us or against us” mentality that the debate was reduced to is contrary to the very spirit of Knox – to the ‘intelligent and sensitive people’ on this campus. I believe that feminism comes in all forms of expression and thought.

It was also alleged that next year’s senators should seek to fight oppression in a way that has not been done so this year, an idea followed by a dig at senators being dishonest. The actions of senators this past year has given me faith that they are individuals who follow their convictions and speak up at wrongdoing. Indeed, the only instance of dishonesty in senate did not come from a senator but from the Residential Quality of Life Chair, Michael Leon. That Atkinson has patently overlooked this fact in her rampage against senators and officers alike is both suspect and disheartening for someone who claims to crusade for those who have been oppressed.

It is true that I ran unopposed, a situation created most likely by the stringent rules in place for running for Treasurer, rules that ensure both experience and accuracy when handling students’ money. I dismiss the fact that, because I ran unopposed, I will silence, intimidate or harass; I will counter with the offer to meet with any student concerning questions, comments or concerns regarding any aspect of the finance process or the finance committee next year.

It has never been alleged that a viewpoint that does not match Senate’s is a viewpoint that is wrong. In fact, it is beneficial for the sake of positive discourse to have a multitude of viewpoints. Critique of viewpoints and discussion about both goals and purposes are not attacks on personal character, and should not be taken as such. My disagreements in Atkinson’s approach and her subsequent actions had little to do with her character, but rather her support of negative speech.

Finally, I reject the notion that members of the senate are politicians, rather than concerned students who care about the community. Though our actions are accountable, we are not seeking to impersonate real politicians, but rather, are striving to help make Knox a better place. I have every faith that next year’s Senate will be both productive and challenging, and continue to work for the betterment of the Knox community.

Liesl Pereira

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