A Senator’s Frustration

Dan Murphy

The Senate dropped the ball this year. I dropped the ball. At the outset of the year, I was excited and enthusiastic to join SGA, so I ran for, and won, a Senator-at-Large position. As a Senior, I hoped to change Colgate for the better and help alleviate many of the problems that plague students.After the recent fraternity house acquisition, I felt that the student body needed an effective legislative voice to stand up to an increasingly powerful administration.

However, at my first meeting, I was bewildered and confused by the parliamentary procedures and bureaucratic nature of the Senate. I wasn’t sure what topics were “germane to debate” or when it was appropriate to make “a point of inquiry.” Needless to say, I was lost. Unfortunately, no program was implemented to educate Senators on Robert’s Rules of parliamentary procedure until the spring semester.Why did the Executive Board choose to wait so long? Since a large percentage of Senators are rookies, I’m sure that others felt as lost and confused as I did.

As the fall semester wore on, I felt increasingly discouraged about my involvement in the Senate. It seemed as though we were accomplishing little more than approving student groups for SGA recognition and BAC funding. Even more disheartening was the displeasure voiced by many students I spoke with. My friends and classmates were and have continued to be frustrated by the Senate. They have said things like, “SGA is a worthless body,” or “It would be nice if SGA actually accomplished something” or “The only thing the Senate has done this year is impeach Preston Burnes.” It seems that the student body thinks so little of our SGA, that Senate’s failures are seen as routine and do not spark the outrage that would be appropriate.

These sentiments, regardless of their accuracy, have made it quite clear that our student government is not doing its job very well. This is not to say that our leaders and some Senators do not work hard. However, I feel that all of us, from the president right on down to the lowly rookie Senator, have failed to provide substantive and tangible results this year. After racking my brain, I cannot think of one pressing student problem that SGA has solved.

Many of SGA’s problems come from the rank-and-file Senators as well as the Executive Board. We Senators do not do a very good job championing the causes of our constituents. Many Senators are habitually absent and an even more alarming number leave meetings early. Only one piece of Senator initiated legislation has passed into law this year.

With four weeks to go, I think that the Senate can still accomplish something. We should move quickly to review and ratify our new constitution. This document provides the essential reforms that the SGA needs. It gives rank-and-file Senators more power in the operations of our government. It also provides more accountability to executive officers as well as individual Senators. If our SGA does not adopt this Constitution and the accompanying by-laws, we will not have much to be proud of this year. We owe it to our constituent to get this done and see to it that the mistakes made this year do not happen down the road.

The new constitution will succeed only if senators act as leaders. Simply showing up on a Tuesday night will no longer be a sufficient time commitment. However, Senators need sound leadership to succeed in the future. With the SGA presidential election taking place next week, the student body has the chance to change course. The next administration must embrace the sweeping reforms proposed by the Constitutional Revision Committee. Our SGA is badly broken and is in dire need of a drastic change. I refuse to accept that student governance has to be the butt of campus jokes forever. Our next president and vice president will have a lot to prove to the Colgate community. Will our SGA continue down its road of ineptitude and apathy, or will it reform and finally address the pressing needs of the student body?

I do not absolve myself of blame for SGA’s ineffectiveness. It’s important for elected officials to come clean on their mistakes for the sake of the student body. I hope that future Senators can learn from our failures to make the SGA an organization to be proud of.