Columns / Discourse / Featured / April 19, 2017

Student Senate debates deserve larger attendance

Managing Editor Nadia Spock ’17 and Editor-in-Chief Rachel Landman ’17

As members of TKS, we planned to arrive early to the Student Senate debate between the candidates running for next year’s treasurer, secretary, vice president and president. Scheduled to take place in the Gizmo, we wanted to be sure we got a table as we were sure it would be a large turnout.

However, much to our dissatisfaction, we realized we were wrong to have this concern.

Instead of tables filled with engaged and interested students, the turnout for the debate was noticeably low. Aside from the candidates, our table of TKS reporters and a few Student Senate representatives, it was hard to tell who had come to the Gizmo to tune in to the debates or to simply work on homework.

We had hoped to see every seat filled for this event.

As Knox students, it is our right to vote for the representatives who will be responsible for conveying our needs to the administration. Considering several members of our campus community, including ourselves, have at one point or another been disappointed with decisions made by the administration and Student Senate, it is important that the Knox community is able to make an informed choice about our campus leadership.

Other than two senators who asked questions of the candidates for president, the only people asking questions were members of TKS. Senate has the power to make a lot of impact on this campus. Not only do members delegate funds, but they are able to endorse student-led movements or ideas brought to the general assembly. Senate can communicate ideas to the administration, faculty and the Board of Trustees. Students should not take Senate lightly and we hoped they would be curious to learn more about the candidates.

Student Senate’s accessibility and visibility on campus was an issue addressed by several candidates, and we believe hosting these debates is an important step in facilitating conversation between senators and the student body they aim to serve.

While the Gizmo is a central campus space, often conducive to conversation among students, the debates could benefit from being hosted somewhere else on campus. Despite the coziness of the Gizmo, it was a challenge to hear the candidates over students chatting and the rumbling of the ice dispenser. The debates serve as an opportunity for future campus leaders to be heard, questioned and challenged, which in our eyes deserves a space where this process will be taken seriously.

Some possible options might include the Trustee’s Room in Alumni Hall or the Ferris Lounge in Seymour Union. Both locations are well-known and central spots, but are quieter and would be more conducive to successful debates.

All the candidates we questioned expressed that they want to establish a good relationship with TKS and believe that the newspaper is an important facet of this campus. We also want a strong relationship with Senate and see its importance, but believe that we need to do a better job of making the campus informed about goings-on during Senate.

TKS has a reporter attend every Senate meeting, but often only the bigger issues and occurrences are reported on. This has been the case for the last several years.

In our final weeks as editors and with the support of our staff, we have decided that our Senate reporter and staff writer Sierra Henry will be posting a weekly brief on our website that details what happened that week. The first of these was posted earlier this week and will continue to come out for the rest of the term.

It is so important that students take an interest in Student Senate. Members and executives are meant to carry your voice to the higher-ups on campus.

We hope to see a bigger turnout at next week’s debates for chair positions. We’ll be there, and we hope you’ll be asking questions with us.

Tags:  column discourse election student government Student Senate

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