The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Commentary December 15, 2006

Editorial: Senate Strengthens Its Legitimacy

This past week has been particularly eventful in the Student Senate office. Once Sunday’s secret ballots had been cast and the votes counted, Senate asked two of its own to resign or face removal from Senate. One has since resigned. Senate is still trying to contact the other.

These calls for resignation follow earlier censures of both senators, which were premised on the senators’ failure to attend official Senate functions and meetings.

It is easy to see why these actions were unfortunate. Senate has a difficult task on campus: Senate has to convince both the student body and the administration to believe in it. This entails showing itself to be a responsible, dedicated group of students who can advocate effectively on behalf of their peers.

To do this, senators must defy administrators’ fears that the students are too busy, too self-focused and too temporary to be an important participant in College governance. It also must show students that it can actually effect change.

It is unfortunate, then, that some senators’ actions confirm these same fears. There is nothing commendable about students who were elected to represent the student body yet do not find it worthwhile to attend the meetings that facilitate this representation.

Focusing only on the unfortunate aspects of Senate’s decision, however, ignores its positive implications.

Primarily, Senate’s decision represents a huge step toward heightened institutional accountability. The process by which Senate arrived at this decision, in fact, stems from legislation passed last spring, designed to increase accountability.

This legislation also sends a message to the student body, including future senators: Senators have responsibilities. They have an obligation to represent the student body as a senator; merely utilizing senatorial prestige to enact change through extra-Senatorial means is an abuse of this representative privilege. Students who prefer to work outside the system should remain there.

Senate’s actions also send a message to the administration that Senate is a serious body with serious goals and serious members. Senators are addressing pertinent issues in a knowledgeable, passionate way, from all-gender housing to climate neutrality. It is an institution that deserves the administration’s audience.

The removal of these senators from office, then, is not as unfortunate as it might first appear. Rather, this is a sign not of failure and disappointment but an indication of success and hope. Senate is moving towards achieving a higher level of efficiency and accountability that will only strengthen its ability to enact greater positive changes in the community.

Editorials are the responsibility of the Review editorial board – the Editors-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Production Manager and Commentary Editor – and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Review staff.


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