For more than a month the majority of student government’s time and energy has been consumed by an attempt to push through seven amendments to the student government constitution largely targeted at creating more oversight of the Student Fee Committee.
By rushing the process, the amendments’ proponents hope to have the new policies in place in time to affect this year’s budgeting process. But their hastiness has excluded students from any real debate or analysis of the issues involved.
This constant drumbeat toward a special election, which has clogged the bulk of senate meetings, has also had larger repercussions within student government, tying up time and resources, which has prevented it from addressing almost any other issues.
The Student Fee Committee oversees allocation of over $8 million in your student fees to Portland State’s student groups, which gives the committee possibly more power than any other student organization to impact the student experience at PSU.
The proposed amendments would make serious changes to how the Student Fee Committee functions. One amendment would restore the simple majority vote to the committee following a recent rule change to the committee’s guidelines that mandates a 3/4 vote to adjust a group’s budget by more than 25 percent of the previous year’s budget. Another amendment would allow the student senate to reject any single item in the fee committee budget with a 3/4 majority vote.
These are serious changes that deserve careful consideration, yet up to this point the student government has done a poor job including constituents’ voices in the process, and with less than two weeks left before the vote it is unlikely it will be able to do its job educating students about these issues.
Many of the students currently on the senate ran on a platform of making government more transparent and including a larger portion of the student body. By rushing to make rule changes without including students in the process they have failed to uphold their campaign promises. It seems that the amendments’ supporters have allowed their personal experience with the Student Fee Committee to overshadow their commitment to serving students.
In addition, because of the senate’s failure to educate students it is likely that the special election will not receive the 1,824 votes required to count as a legitimate election. During the general election last March, only 2,432 students turned out to vote, even after more than a month of vigorous campaigning.
If the special election fails to get enough votes the amendments could be included in the general election in March, which may actually be better for all involved. By then the senate will have enough time to table in the Park Blocks, hold public forums and use other means to include students in the debate about these issues and educate them enough to be truly engaged with the process.
The senate’s main role at PSU is to ensure that the student’s voice is represented in student government decisions. The senate should spend its energy educating students about the issues pertaining to the fee committee and providing a public forum for discourse about what changes should be made. Only then can students be expected to make an informed vote, even if that is not until March.