Discourse / Editorials / May 19, 2009

Change we can believe in © Barack Obama

As this year comes to a conclusion, I know we’re all tired and apathetic, but I just want returning students, especially politicians, to keep these things in mind.

There has been an outcry from members of our school about Student Senate, and whether I liked it or not, I became its spokesperson over the last month. Even though I was harassed, silenced, and intimidated, I think I’m finally starting to see some improvements based on the platforms Senate chairs and officers are running on, which is what we always wanted. We as minorities wanted to be acknowledged, have our concerns taken seriously, and have our grievances acted on. This has not happened this year, but it could and should change.

Presidential hopeful Zack Lazar asked if every student has necessarily been represented this year, and he asks it rightfully so. The students who had been growing increasingly frustrated with Senate these last four years approached me after I called out many senators with what I felt was discrimination (though some people conclude that it was simply ignorance), and echoed my sentiment that they did not feel they were represented. Communications Chair hopeful Sam Claypool says Senate is to blame for the lack of communication between the student body, and she is right. It is wrong for minorities to have to seek the majority’s permission to speak. As an institution that fights against all kinds of oppression, this would be a good cause for honest senators to undertake next year.

At a recent Senate meeting, Safety and Services Chair hopeful Gabe Paz spoke out against the majority when he remarked that the senators’ constant berating of those who speak their minds is why most people hate Senate. Senate needs to become a welcoming and open-minded place. I reject the notion that, as a political institution, it is inherently intimidating, as the current Vice President told me earlier this term.

Unfortunately, because there are already people running unopposed, it is difficult to say that next year will be different, as the people’s voices are not being heard. Based on these politicians’ actions in the past, it would seem that more silencing, intimidation and harassment will ensue. But I’m not so much of a pessimist that I don’t think people can completely turn over their leaves or start from scratch. I hope they have seen that, instead of making Knox safer, they have made it less so. I hope they have learned that faculty and staff members support our goals, and that their politics of hostility are hurting others. I hope they have realized that just because their viewpoint does not match mine does not make mine wrong. There needs to be accountability in all forms of government. Unstrained power affects everyone, but as we can see, it affects minorities most of all.

Instead of playing politics, senators should ask their dissenters why they feel the way they do. Politicians should ask them what they, as people in positions of power, can do to change that. They should be approachable and have hours that students can come to in order to air their concerns. They should not simply retaliate with their political agendas, shout things from apartment balconies, or tell people that their trauma is not real. These are not leaders, and they are not people that represent the intelligent and sensitive people of Knox. It is not my job to tell the Senate how to run things, but it is theirs to try to figure out how to change this legacy of corruption. With that said, I hope we can come back to a Student Senate that is run by sincere people who truly want to represent not just themselves, but all the students of Knox College.

*I am not necessarily endorsing any of the above mentioned candidates.

Ashley Atkinson

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