Senate Asks Students For Input, What Next?
by Kushal Kabil

Student Senate has expressed frustration and concern over the weak response to their recent efforts aimed at incorporating a greater degree of student participation in activities involving College governance and administration. Many senators see the problem as largely resulting from a sense of apathy among the student body.
One such opportunity for greater student participation involved interviewing students interested in becoming members of different College administrative committees. Senate has the responsibility of appointing all student members to faculty, administrative and ad hoc committees as well as advisory councils. The interviews concluded last Thursday and several positions remain unfilled.
“The Senate is dedicated to appointing the most interested, informed, responsible, able and committed student participants to College governance roles while emphasizing diversity and broad representation as fundamental to the process,” sophomore senator Behrad Mahdi said. Mahdi is the Educational Coordinator of the Senate. “This year the publicity for the interviews that included details of the names and scopes of the different committees and failed to attract very many people to come sign up.”
The Winter Term and Jaszi Lectureship committees are among those that still have student openings.
“The apathy might have been because of either lack of information and education, the timing, people reprioritizing their activities because of the September 11th events and the delays caused as a result, which scattered most of the scheduled events of this semester,” senior senator Kasi Chakravartula said.
As a whole the Senate is concerned with a lack of student participation. “It is quite a serious issue because without student membership and active participation the student body has no voice [in the decision making process],” sophomore senator Shahana Siddiqui said.
“The Senate is the executive body of the student body. Obviously, 15 senators cannot take care of all the College’s problems, and that’s why we need committees; small groups with Senate, student and faculty representation that can better control the issues that they are solely dedicated to control.”
Siddiqui also noted that student representation provides the student body with a voice in decisions that directly affect them.
Every year, with committee members graduating or resigning, gaps are created in these committees and those gaps have to be filled. It is disappointing to see some of Oberlin’s students who are constantly complaining about different aspects of the College [but] are not willing to sign up for the committees and do something.” Siddiqui said.
Some senators feel that lack of student representation in committees will result in more decisions made by the administration [which might] not make all the students happy. [But] future changes will be not possible since there is no constructive criticism to oppose those decisions,” Chakravartula said.
Chakravartula voiced a further concern raised by the lack of student participation. “Without 50 percent of the student body responding to the referendum that is currently being circulated, which underlines some of the important issues relating to dining, housing, safety, students of color and which ratifies the Senate pay system, there would be adverse affects on the Senate because the senators wouldn’t get paid,” she said.
“[Last spring] it took two weeks to gather votes from the twenty percent of the student body that is required for elections to be valid. This referendum, if similar apathy is the norm, would mean an even longer wait,” Chakravartula said
Concerned about a lack of student participation in campus politics, Senate encourages students to fill in the referendums and return them at the allocated ballot boxes located around the campus.

“The improvement of campus dining this year would not be possible had the Housing and Dining Committee not campaigned for a change of the College’s caterer. Other such improvements will not be possible with weak student body involvement in the future,” Siddiqui said

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