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Is the SA Really Where It Claims to Be?

12/02/2009

This has truly been an eventful semester full of Appropriations decisions, slightly disrespectful articles, and diversity issues. I’m sure all of that was to be expected. As an SA Representative, I think it is my job to step outside of myself and my position, and really examine the extent to which the SA has been successful this semester.

As I was preparing for a meeting with my Dean a few weeks ago, I found myself in a conversation with a few students about the direction of the SA and the lack of effective communication between the members and the undergraduate community. I was told that the SA really has not been very accommodating in the sense that there are really no physical forums for students to actually speak to their reps, outside of SA meetings of course. The student continued to point out that it is rare to see the SA actually making an attempt to try and understand how our vast constituency is actually feeling about particular issues. I have to say that I agree with most of his assertions.

Now, let me be clear that I am not at all trying to imply that we are not doing our jobs, nor am I going to try and make excuses for te things we have not done. I’m just recognizing our flaws and looking toward the future in an effort to correct our mistakes.

The SA needs more physical venues for people to come and speak to us. I know a few members and die-hard SA fans will point out that we already have websites and blogs, but I said physical; meaning a place where people can walk in and make eye contact with you. Still others will say that’s what SA meetings are for. Let’s be perfectly honest. There are not very many people that desire to sit through those long (and sometimes very boring) meetings. Even if they did, the short amount of open mike time that is given is not enough for students to really explain their positions on particular issues. We need to do something better.

Now my approach to recognizing issues is probably different than most SA members. I don’t go on a scavenger hunt to find issues; I wait for issues to come to my attention. This is not to say that I don’t take the initiative to try and understand what issues are plaguing my constituency. My position is that I don’t want to go and try to solve something I think is an issue when there are more significant things that my constituents feel need to be resolved. I would rather hear directly what is bothering the students, which is what prompted me to write this–because I was told that are communication sucks.

I am not at all opposed to requiring reps to hold office hours. Quite frankly, I don’t mind sitting in the Green Dragon for two hours listening to or waiting for people to come and chat with me. Some SA members will argue that nobody will take advantage of these office hours. Even if only one person comes, and it happens to be a Sun writer or a Cinema critic, it’s the fact that there was an opportunity for them to show up. It’s the fact that we, as SA members, are taking the initiative to go the extra mile and provide this opportunity. I shouldn’t even say “extra mile,” because in actuality, it is our job to do that anyway.

The bottom line is that we need to open up the lines of communication more. If that means office hours and PR events then that’s what we need to do. If we don’t do our jobs more effectively and communicate with the public better, then can we really claim that we are making the progress that we say we are?

Ulysses Smith

Architecture, Art, & Planning Representative

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