Student Senate executive board elections are slated to begin this week, but an election may not be strictly necessary for the position of president.
Only junior and current Senate vice president Phil Bennett is running, meaning that as long as he votes for himself, he will be next year’s Senate president. Using selection by default for one of the most important student positions on campus is extremely concerning. Given the power that the Senate president wields, students need more options to truly choose the candidate that will best serve them.
In order to run for Senate president, one must have served on Senate for at least three terms. This is the only formal requirement. As a longstanding member of Senate and this year’s vice president, Phil is undoubtedly qualified for the position. Yet in a body built upon democracy and the student voice, the fact that he is running unopposed is concerning.
We do not mean to suggest that people should run simply for the sake of running. Being Senate president is a considerable time commitment and should not be taken lightly.
But we are disappointed that more members of Senate, especially those who have been dedicated to the organization for many years, have not shown an interest in giving students a choice with respect to who their Senate president will be. We presume that those on Senate care about student government and understand how much power Senate holds. Who gets to preside over that power should not be decided by default.
The president of Senate is an ex officio member of a multitude of faculty committees. He or she sets the agenda not only for each meeting but also for the entire year, choosing which projects and initiatives Senate will actively pursue.
This means that he or she is not only uniquely connected to decision-makers on campus but is also uniquely positioned to deal with issues that affect the entire student body. This is a considerable amount of power and influence, and students need an element of choice in deciding who will be in charge of it. Moreover, students are hardly a homogenous group, and the variety of interests present among them should also be present among candidates for Student Senate president.
We applaud Phil Bennett for his willingness to serve the student body by taking on such a large role. It is unfortunate that others do not seem to share that willingness. While it is too late now for other members of Senate to run, we hope that this situation will not repeat itself in the future. Handing the mantle of Senate president to one person without any opportunity for debate about how he or she should use his or her power is decidedly undemocratic — hardly a fitting adjective for the formal organ of the student voice at Knox.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial stated that a candidate for Student Senate president had not run unopposed in at least four years. This is incorrect, as it happened in 2011. We apologize for the error.