We were encouraged to learn that Columbia College’s university senators and student council have reversed their initial decision to fill a vacant seat on the University Senate through an indirect election.
At first, student leaders said that an indirect election would be the most efficient and fair way to pick a new senator. But, this early in the school year, our representatives should have recognized their primary duty was to make sure that all students were included in the process. Efficiency should be secondary to making sure that the student body has a direct choice in their representatives to the University’s highest deliberative body. It is comforting that the senators and student council realized the irony in arguing, “Every day that we waited, we felt like we were disenfranchising students,” in order to justify disenfranchising students.
The initial decision to hold an indirect election reinforced the common perception that student government is an insider’s game. This may be incorrect, but the perception is nonetheless detrimental to creating a representative, inclusive, and ultimately effective student government. We are optimistic that a direct election will be a small step toward a student government that truly lives up to these ideals.
As we move into the campaigning period, we encourage students to make their voices heard. CCSC, whose executive board ran unopposed last year, should be particularly attuned to the need for legitimacy through an open selection process.
Many students say that they do not care about the workings of student government. But the strong responses in our meeting about this situation—which many thought was unfair—demonstrate that students do care about a government that is fair and democratic. We hope that this election will send a message about the value of direct, representative democracy to the University Senate and CCSC.
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