UM student government needs to improve process

With all of the complaining that I do about the University of Miami, one would think that I was at least up to date on the activity of our student government. Sadly, as of last week, I could not really claim to know what they talk about, where they meet, who is involved or even when they are elected. And I have the feeling that I am not alone.

It seems to me that very few of my fellow students actually know what is going on in student government, the student body that makes vital decisions on behalf of the undergraduate students, or that a chunk of the tuition of student government the president, vice president and senate speaker are paid for by undergraduate students. Some of the undergraduate student activity fee pays half of the tuition for the president and a quarter of the tuition for the vice president and the senate speaker.

Now, any jerk can write articles making idle complaints to no one in particular. And since I am not just any jerk, I decided to go into the heart of enemy territory. Over the course of two weeks, I schmoozed with the people I so often criticize. Yes, I went to a few student government meetings just to see who in the world is deciding the most important things for us students. For all of you too lazy to actually get out of bed and go to a meeting yourself, never fear; I will tell you what you are missing.

The most important question is what gets done in student government. Well, as some student government members say themselves, not too much. When I asked them why they thought nothing gets done in the meetings, their answers were almost the same: senators talk too much, ask too many questions, and repeat themselves often.

To be quite honest, I still haven’t seen enough of the student government in action to be 100 percent sure if the allegation is true. But the meetings I watched lent it much weight.

From my perspective, here is basically what happened in the parts that I stayed for: Someone would make a speech asking for funds for their particular group and explain why. Then, the floor would be open for questions from the senators. After 45 minutes or so, there would be a motion to move to discussion which would inevitably be shot down by the ten or fifteen senators-who still had questions to ask.

In all fairness, the questions posed were very intellectual and pointed. However, they seemed to lead in a painfully long circle. I understand why they want to be absolutely sure about their decisions, but if it takes that long to go through one action out of seven or eight on the agenda, they are going to be in that room all night. Although they seemed very professional and were very kind to me, I cannot deny that, to put it gently, our student government takes the long way around an issue.

I commend student government for their good work. However, I would suggest that they try to be more expedient. As I see it, they could do three times as many great things for the school as they do now.

Travis Atria is a sophomore majoring in English literature.

February 19, 2002


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