By Tanner Knauth, Page Editor
The votes have been cast, and the student body has new leadership for the Students’ Association Congress. But now what?
Next year’s Congress has, admittedly, the undesirable task of following a student government marked by controversy.
The closed meetings and impeachment have been well chronicled, and recanting those transgressions would be a waste of time. However, next year’s Congress undoubtedly will be looked at in the light of this year’s Congress.
SA Congress should be the voice of the students. However, only 813 ballots were cast in the recent elections versus the more than 4,500 enrolled students. This screams one thing: students have stopped caring about their student government. Can the new Congress change this trend?
This year’s Congress, led by now impeached President Daniel Paul Watkins, had the perception of being ineffective and shrouded in secrecy. SA Congress has lost much of its credibility. A major priority for next year’s Congress and its members is to restore the trust between the student body and its leaders.
SA Congress, in recent years, has done a poor job of reaching out to students, listening to their problems and then proactively finding solutions. SA Vice President-elect Tony Godfrey, junior English major from Burleson, had the right idea when he said in an Optimist interview, “No longer are we going to be saying, ‘Come down to our office and talk to us.’ We’re going to be getting out and talking to them.”
However, with all due respect to Godfrey, SA Congress cannot be taken at its word anymore. Action is needed.
Student-led government is a difficult task. Few students understand the time, patience and hard work it takes to be a successful member of Congress. SA Congress and its members make promises, but often are unable to navigate through the obstacles to bring those promises to fruition. If the 2009-10 SA Congress is to move past the stigma of its predecessors, it must follow through on the promises made to the student body. For example, some of us are still waiting on more student-friendly library hours.
SA President-elect Charles Gaines, junior criminal justice major from Cedar Hill, has promised a more “Christ-centered” administration. A Christ-centered administration is fine, but students will need more if Congress is to be relevant again.
This is a two-way street; students need to hold their Congress members accountable. If promises are not kept, then students need to talk to their Congress representatives. The Wednesday meetings should be filled with students ready to ask questions. If a Congress member reaches out to students, students should be ready and willing to offer their opinions on how to make their college experience better.
SA Congress members have been charged with an unenviable task: how can they become relevant again? They have to deal with replacing a controversial Congress and serving a disinterested student body. I want to wish all the new SA Congress members good luck and advice: do not give up on your constituents, and we will not give up on you.
posted 4/17/09 @ 12:47 AM CST
Tanner et All,
Please understand me when I say that this not a bashing-the-optimist comment. As SA President last year, I had a great relationship with all of the Optimist’s staff. They were all delightful people. And my guess is that all of them this year are great people as well. However, as I’ve kept up with the Optimist’s coverage over the past year, there seems to be some short term memory loss.
Point in case, “SA Congress, in recent years, has done a poor job of reaching out to students, listening to their problems and then proactively finding solutions.”
However, last year, we sent out a campus wide policy survey hosted by myself and then Senior Senator Brandon Smith in an effort to provide substantial evidence to the administration about what areas of Student Policy the campus preferred change to happen. This was a very influential piece of information that led to the new alcohol policy.
We also encouraged students to petition when they wanted the Def Poetry Jam event to happen on campus. With the campus’ support, we had a successful weekend with three Def Poets from HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. It was an unprecedented event for faculty, staff, and students alike.
There was also the work we did in investigating the Intramurals Dept. We did that because students asked us to. Afterwards, the Intramurals Dept. promised change and we’ve seen change happening in increments since that time.
Furthermore, the headline for this article sounds vaguely familiar to an article I wrote in the Feb 22nd, 2008 edition of the Optimist entitled “Campus Change Requires Congress, Student Body Participation.”
All of what shrouded the SA during the 2008-2009 congress was unfortunate, but as ACU students look forward to positive futures, every single writer in the Optimist should educate themselves about the successes that the SA has had in recent years instead of using blanket statements like “in recent years”, which wouldn’t and shouldn’t apply to mine, Maher Saab’s, Justin Scott’s, or Layne Rouse’s administrations.
It’s not only unfair to the reputation of the past administrations, but the entire legacy of the Students’ Association as a whole. Should you ignore this humble request, I can only imagine that the legacy you complain about will continue to haunt the Students’ Association for years to come.
SA President 07′-08′