This Whole Circus Again: StudGov

Emery Malachowski, Editor-in-Chief

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Executive Committee of Student Government has met twice since the start of the semester. Here are outlined some of the goals and philosophies of several of its members.

 

A Broken System or Respectful Adults?

“F*ck, this is the state of things, Emery!” says Glassman, “It’s pretty hard to see a way forward right now.” Vidal Glassman, in his second year as Policy Committee Chair, expresses “frustration” and a “pessimistic” attitude around Student Government. When asked how he felt about running unopposed, Glassman says he felt annoyed, saying “I’d already done it for a year…I was hoping somebody else would so I could be a Senator and take on a different role.”

Glassman characterizes Student Government as a “pretty broken system to begin with, but one that more or less works well enough to serve the role that it needs to, which is keeping Juniata’s club life. The bare minimum.” When asked if this was the way Glassman wanted Student Government to function, he answered simply “F*ck no!” When pressed, Glassman adds “I wanted to change the structure last year,” but for now, “This is also a Student Government at a tiny college…I didn’t say it doesn’t matter, but in the grand scheme of things…” and trails off. He did note that the Student Body’s lack of belief in Student Government as a problem-solving tool decreased its power to solve those problems.

This is Kenia’s first year in Executive Committee, and she is optimistic about the committee’s ability to avoid the conflicts and resignations that marked last year’s group. She says that keeping the peace was really “not up to me…people staying in their lane and calm and respectful is the president’s role.” But she adds “we are all adults, respectful, and know not to raise our voices, and I will be more than happy to tell somebody if they are getting out of control.”

 

Glassman’s Goals

Vidal Glassman featured the New Constitution prominently in his campaign statement (see prior Juniatian coverage at juniatian.org). Now, he says, he is less sure of how he would like to address this, favoring incremental change (or as he calls it, a “long, arduous process” and a “habit of getting things done”) over addressing issues in bulk. He hopes if they start now, in three years it could amount to more. Glassman says he is “fed up with not seeing that much happen” and “wants to see something happen rather than nothing.” However, Glassman says he has not discussed his goals of continuing philosophies found in the New Constitution with the other members of Executive Committee.

When asked what his first incremental changes towards the ideals of the New Constitution would be, however, Glassman was less than sure. Yet Glassman emphasized that “I want students to realize to a higher degree what kind of power they have on campus. We are what makes up the school, we should be the primary decision makers. The school should reflect our character and values much more than it does.”

 

Old New Constitution

The New Constitution was an effort last year by a group of students, some within Policy Committee, to create a re-written Constitution that would solve the issues of the unclear language in the current documents once voted upon by the general Student Body. The different opinions and fate of the New Constitution, which was never put to a vote, is documented in past Juniatian articles. Glassman, who was previously a central figure in the New Constitution’s campaign, has since softened his views, and calls opposing viewpoints “valid.” He says that he is also afraid that the New Constitution, had it been passed last semester, might not have been recognized by the administration due to interpretational ambiguity in the current bylaws. When asked if he would’ve fought administrative interference, Glassman asks “Do you have lawyers like the college does? …It’s not tak ing power away [from Student Government], it’s just acknowledging certain things and deciding the way to interpret the policy.” Either way, he says “We don’t go that route to begin with so we don’t need to risk this big of a change on a conflict over a clause. It’s unnecessary risk.”

Pochette, who was not a member of the New Constitution’s campaign, says that it was “doing a lot in too little time,”, but that it “could have done a lot for Student Government if people were ready for it. She supported the New Constitution’s clarity, as well as current awareness initiatives including “Ask a Senator Day,” getting the website updated, and publicizing SAUR events.

When asked whether SAUR supported the aspects of the New Constitution that were explicitly centered around human rights and protecting equality, Pochette said that she did not remember reading anything about students’ rights, and that SAUR did not discuss it. She acknowledged that a section within the New Constitution that addressed equality would be central to SAUR’s mission.

Article 1 of the New Constitution was the General Rights of the Student: Right to equality, right to safety, right to self, right to self government, right of override, right to vote, right to campus media.

 

Art on Campus

Glassman’s most concrete plans for this semester are to encourage the celebration of student art on campus, particularly art that expresses authentic student experiences and emotions, adding that “none of us are f*cking eagles”. He says this includes “getting rid of that stupid posting policy” (adding “sorry, Erin,”) “and getting more straight-up expression of what’s in students’ minds around campus.”

 

Pochette’s Priorities

Pochette spoke frequently about how Student Government did not give SAUR the respect it deserved, and her main talking point is encouraging Senators to attend SAUR events. She hopes to amend the Constitution so that SAUR, as well as committees like Projects and Policy, are officially recognized.

As of now, the official Bylaws and Constitution do not mention SAUR, but have seats for “domestic minority” and “gender and sexual minority” student representatives, rules which have not been implemented at least within the last several years. To receive these archaic positions one must petition using forms that no longer even exist on the Student Government website.

 

Block Scheduling

Pochette says that SAUR is currently working on addressing block scheduling issues. She says that the Student Body should have been more aware about the upcoming scheduling changes, and gotten a voice, stating that “we were totally blindsided by the block scheduling. I still don’t know why it happened.” She believes that a Student Body general vote on the block scheduling would be a reasonable way for Student Government to intervene.

Glassman says that given an administrative issue like block scheduling, his move as Policy Chair would be to help draft a resolution to administration from Student Government, and then use administration’s response to inform his next move. Pochette says that the central issue in the block scheduling problem is that administration don’t properly use the communication tools we already have, such as the daily announcements. She questioned if the Juniatian had publicized that block scheduling was being discussed. While the Juniatian is not an “administrative communication tool,” I decided to check. The only time the Juniatian mentioned the block scheduling changes was in an article titled “Emotional Feuds Rule Executive Committee”, which covered a Student Government meeting where a representative from the general education committee was coming to speak and hold a vote on both block scheduling and a change in POE size. The information in the article on this presentation and vote was brief, since it was overshadowed by the decision by SAUR members to walk out on both the presentation and the vote in protest of one of their proposals being voted down by Student Government.

 

Voiceless Commuters

Pochette says that SAUR supports encouraging commuter representation, and considers them an underrepresented group under SAUR’s umbrella. She believes a commuter representative member in Student Government is necessary.

Glassman says that he supports commuter involvement in Student Government, but believes there are a variety of ways to get commuters involved outside of a representative, which would require a constitutional amendment.

 

This Monday and every Monday?

According to Student Government Meeting Minutes, which can be found on (github.com/juniata-student-government), the Senate voted 31-1 on February 25th in favor of a SAUR-supported proposal to meet weekly every Monday from 9pm-10pm in this Fall semester.

Glassman says that “I don’t decide the future, the Executive Committee decides what meeting times are, and everyone doesn’t care about what we voted on as much as…I’m not gonna finish that sentence.” He draws back by saying that the Executive Committee would hold weekly meetings unless Senate had another vote to reverse the decision.

When asked about the weekly Monday meetings, Pochette believed that “According to our last [Executive Committee] meeting, or our last email, it sure sounded like it was gonna start next semester,” saying that she believed the weekly meetings would only begin in the Spring semester. But she says that “if people voted for it I’m gonna respect their voices,” and that at least “SAUR committee will be meeting every week this semester so things get done.”

 

Missing Officers

As of September 19th, the Officer of Technology and the Treasurer positions on Executive Committee are unfilled. These positions have been appointed by Executive Committee in the past.

For the Officer of Technology, Glassman says that “Even though right now it says an appointment…we  would ideally have someone who is not elected, even if they ran unopposed, or at least confirmed by the Senate. Pochette says that the Executive Committee already has someone in mind for the Officer of Technology position, and that this person would be “appointed, to respect the Constitution.”

The Treasurer, who is an important figure for clubs who might be requesting revisions for or have questions around their budgets, has not been decided on. While Glassman says he will be “very upset” if a Treasurer is not confirmed by the 23rd, neither he nor Pochette could give suggestions on what clubs should be doing in the meantime.

 

Who Are You?

One of the sources of strife in Executive Committee last year was a lack of clarity in roles (to read the Juniatian’s coverage on these issues, visit juniatian.org). Both Pochette and Glassman feel unsure with at least a facet of their job descriptions.

Pochette’s own role seems to still be unclear to her. When asked what her role was on Executive Committee, her response was that “That’s a really good question. A SAUR member on the Executive Board is just like any other member of the Executive Board. We haven’t had many executive board meetings for me to actually have my role set in stone.”

When asked what his job description is, Glassman says “to my knowledge, I don’t have one.”

 

SAUR’s Purpose

Kenia Pochette defines SAUR’s purpose as “bringing to light issues that involve marginalized groups on campus – so voting so everyone’s voices get heard and vote with their voice in mind, what they would’ve wanted.” To get this voice she says SAUR committee hears about issues on campus related to diversity through word of mouth and through their communities and collaboration with clubs like PAX-O.

 

But ALL Underrepresented Groups?

Pochette says that SAUR represents “any groups who have ever felt underrepresented. We don’t specify, if you’ve ever felt like your voice wasn’t being heard on campus, or you didn’t feel like the bigger group on campus.” Yet when questioned whether Republicans who felt like they were the minority on campus would be supported in their initiatives and programs by SAUR, Pochette was more hesitant. She says that while SAUR would welcome Republicans who wanted to work within SAUR to support SAUR’s goals and existing initiatives, she feels that “supporting Republican activities would be kind of going against what SAUR stands for.” On campus she says Republicans may feel like minorities, but within the U.S. their voices are not underrepresented.

 

Our Executive Committee

Jeanette Harijanto, secretary of Executive Board, declined to be interviewed. Haley Lederer, President, and Charlie Cadden, Vice President, say they would only be interviewed together, and have yet to respond to interview requests with their availability. The first Senate meeting will be on September 23rd in A100 from 9-10pm.

 

 

BEHIND THE STORY

  1. Why did we report on this?
    • Comprehensive student government coverage is important because Senators and Executive Committee are our elected officials, and the Student Body has the right to knowledge about their actions and policies. Emery believes in the power of democracy, and knows that Student Government, administration, and the media were designed to allow for checks and balances upon each other.
  2. How did we get the information to report on this?
    • Student Government coverage is informed by interviews with Student Government members, notes taken from attending every Student Government meeting, and research done on our own policies and Constitution and on our peer and aspirant colleges’ policies.
  3. How can the reader get more information on the topic covered?
    • Emery reccomends reading the extensive backlog of the Juniatian’s Student Government coverage, talking to your Senators, and looking into other college’s Student Governments to see what could or should be expected from college government.
  4. Did we miss something?
    • Let us know! Contact Emery (mallaec16@juniata.edu) with any further questions, comments, or concerns about this article, or to suggest further articles about this topic.