Do I Have a Right to Represent You?

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Do I Have a Right to Represent You?

NICK TURNER • THE SPECTATOR

NICK TURNER • THE SPECTATOR

NICK TURNER • THE SPECTATOR

NICK TURNER • THE SPECTATOR

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For the past year I have been serving as your At-Large Representative on the Student Government of Seattle University (SGSU). In this capacity, I have voted for how your tuition money should be spent, worked with Chartwells to change your dining experience, and have been in meetings with the administration to advocate on your behalf. In return, I receive an annual scholarship of $1,500, funded by your tuition.

But what gives me the right?

I ran unopposed in both of my SGSU elections, meaning you, the student body, have never selected me to represent you. This issue extends well beyond me, as every SGSU officer, from the president to the representatives, was on the ballot alone in the spring elections.

Compounding this problem, when asked in the 2019 State of the Undergraduate Student Survey if they were “aware of the work that SGSU does on campus,” nearly half of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed. The survey was also littered with responses like “I know very little about SGSU,” and “I never see SGSU, so why do they have a budget?”

Student Government does important work at SU; we have representatives advocating on behalf of students on the administration’s most influential committees, we fund clubs so students have the resources to explore their passions, and we plan events such as Halfway There and Senior Soiree to promote campus unity. But despite the decisions we make having widespread ramifications, we often make them with little to no input from the student body. As a political science major, I am a firm believer in the importance of consent of the governed, and I do not think that we currently have your consent.

That is why it is necessary for SGSU to undergo intense scrutiny and structural change. We are obviously doing something wrong, and for our organization to function as intended, we need to understand what that is and do everything in our power to fix it.

In my second year on SGSU, I hope to work with my fellow officers to institute the following transformations which will work towards the ultimate goal of reinventing SGSU:

First, the creation of an SGSU “Listening Tour,” in which representatives attend club meetings in order to reach students where they are, will allow us to initiate the connection with students rather than expecting them to come to us.

Second, instituting quarterly feedback sessions for students to air grievances and express concerns about SGSU and issues on campus will give us an opportunity to take the time to be available to students and be honest about how SGSU is fulfilling its promise to them.

Finally, by revamping our website to include up to date meeting minutes, budget information, and a virtual comment box, we will be able to increase transparency and allow students more opportunities to engage with us.

Unfortunately, although this is SGSU’s problem to fix, without the involvement of students, both demanding change and providing an outline for what you want your government to look like, the necessary radical rebuilding cannot happen.

There are numerous options students have to influence the work SGSU does, ranging from active to passive. While the choices I list here admittedly all work inside the current system, they allow students to get a foot in the door and insisting on a more representative SGSU:

Seeking office in SGSU is the best way to effect the most change from the inside of the organization. Nearly all of the officers this year are returning from last year, and we are in desperate need of new voices and perspectives.

We hold weekly representative as- semblies on Wednesdays from 6-8, and by setting aside two hours every week to attend you can contribute to our conversations and influence our decisions.

Meet with your representatives and inform us about the issues that matter most to you. Our office hours will be posted on our website and on ConnectSU within the next two weeks.

Voting for the fall SGSU elections takes place October 23rd-25th, and casting your vote is the best way to choose the people who you want to spend your money and make decisions on your behalf.

Student government was created to be a voice for the student body as a whole, so as long as we operate without regular input from the student body, SGSU will be defective. I believe in a future in which SGSU is a truly influential governing body, with the ability to both support the student body and act as a powerful check on the administration. That is an ideal I know we can reach if we come together and act with urgency, so I hope you will join me in the fight.