Discourse / Editorials / Student Senate / February 22, 2012

Senate president responds: ‘Thoughts from the Embers: Senate represents?’

Since many of you may have read the “Thoughts from the Embers” articles attacking senate for our supposedly “controversial” attendance policy and our “major problem” with turnover; I figured I should take this opportunity to air the other side of the argument.

According to the “Embers” op-ed about it, senate turnover represents two things: less committed senate officers than previous years, and a major roadblock to progress in senate. Let me be the first to say in TKS that neither of those is the truth. Ask any member of exec, and they can tell you that the “crisis” of turnover has had a minimal effect, if any, on the work that we actually do. There is not one single issue, resolution, project or proposal that has been sidelined this year due to turnover. Unfortunately, you haven’t seen this opinion expressed in TKS because nobody from senate exec has been interviewed about it yet.

In every exec committee of the last four years, there have been members who have been either too busy or too distracted to perform their jobs properly. However, their inactivity went largely unreported because they chose to remain on senate and continue to do their jobs poorly. In my opinion, the two members who resigned this year did the right thing. Rather than taking the easy route and focusing on what “looked good,” they chose to do what was right for Student Senate. This demonstrates the kind of mentality that is on exec this year. People are all expected to do their jobs because they are surrounded by other officers and chairs who are all doing their jobs exceptionally well. It is my sincere opinion that I have been blessed with the best set of officers and chair people that senate has had in a very long time.

The two officers who were off campus for a term this year announced that fact last spring. Voters were made aware that these candidates were going to be away for a term if elected, and yet both were still elected by wide margins.

As for our attendance policy, it is far from being something new or controversial. Appointing an interim replacement for a member who is temporarily unable to attend meetings is regular practice in many democratic bodies, including the U.S. House and Senate. In fact, it already occurred on Student Senate last year without any press or controversy. TKS claims “Senate has become more of what 25 students want, rather than what the student body wants because of the turnover and internal selection of senator replacement.” But, where is the evidence of this? There are only three interim senators this term, and no vote this term has been passed by a margin small enough for this to make a difference.

In reality, we have done much more than any senate in years to reach out to students and collect opinions. With the exception of the Tech Chair election, we have had a much higher turnout in elections and have seen more candidates for almost every position than in years past. Senators have also been sending more emails to constituents than in previous years. By almost every measure, senate has been more representative, not less.

The fact is that our attendance policy passed without a single objection. Not a single student has expressed any opposition to the policy at any meeting, in our comment box, on our Facebook page, individually to any exec member or otherwise. In fact, the only group of students who appear to have an issue with the policy are TKS writers.

Knox teaches us that everyone has a bias in one form or another. Everyone writes with an intended purpose and as hard as we may try, bias is unavoidable. I, obviously, am biased toward the side of Student Senate. I admit that I have a vested interest in making sure that senate does its job well. Similarly, TKS, as any newspaper, has a vested interest in making sure that people read their paper.

As Knox’s only newspaper, TKS has the power to decide what is or isn’t newsworthy, and as an editorial staff, they are entitled to their opinion. When they write an opinion piece, they are not required to perform interviews or research, nor should they be. However, when TKS writes two editorials about an issue without writing a news article or speaking to anybody involved, I begin to worry that the full story is not being told. That is why I have written this op-ed-not to attack TKS or any of its writers (I am friends with many of them, and used to write for TKS myself), but because I want both sides of the story to be told.

Gordon Barratt is the Student Senate President.

Gordon Barratt

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