In an election year where it is common to hear someone say “I’ll be voting for the lesser of two evils” or the even more radical, “I’m not voting because I don’t like either candidate,” it is astonishing, yet not very surprising, that some university student governments are more stable and proactive than the body they try to emulate, the United States government.
While our nation’s government is on shaky grounds due to it’s unclear future, university student governments around the nation are building strong and trustworthy platforms. Instead of following the American government notion of concealed agreements and hard core lobbying, university student governments are taking a more contemporary approach to their time in office: openness.
Student governments are on a mission to better their university and campus community by acting as approachable and transparent as they can to the student body. They listen to student ideas, concerns and comments and they work directly with that student to make his/her idea become a reality. To take a more in-depth look at how some university’s are handling their student governments, the University of Miami, University of Florida and Cornell’s SGs were all researched to see how the institutions are similar or different in their transparency and innovation.
At the University of Miami, Student Government President Vikesh Patel said the UM student government encourages any student to bring an idea or concern to their senator in order to determine how feasible the project is and how it can be implemented. They are responsible for implementing a number of school perks like the Ibis ride, the Wednesday farmers market, the creation of the Shalala Student Center and an all time favorite, late night dining.
At Cornell University, SG President Jordan Berger, said their government has a designated time at the beginning of all of their meetings called ‘open microphone,’ where any community member can participate and voice their comments or concerns for the school. Cornell’s student assembly have brought up initiatives such as new lights and electrical outlets on campus sidewalks, and a student-run grocery store called Annabel’s that hopes to help solve food insecurity on Cornell’s campus.
While Cornell and the University of Florida’s student governments have the task of allocating the Student Activity Fee, meaning they are responsible for administering an objective funds dispersal to all other student organizations, UM’s student government has no control over theirs.
In an attempt to avoid the politics and possible conflicts of interest of intertwining the student activity fee with student government, UM created the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC). It is comprised of 14 delegates including one student government chair, responsible for giving every organization on campus the thing we love most, money.
SAFAC even funds student government’s activity fees. This helps maintain UM student government’s checks and balances. The judicial committee and elections commission also helps maintain the inability of one branch to have too much power.
The University of Florida and Cornell University also encourage and implement the use of checks and balances.
While I only chose three schools for this case study, the three universities mentioned are either public, private or Ivy League. Using these three different institutions I tried to generalize how equal all student governments treat their communities and how that fair treatment should continue into real world politics.
Millennials might feel alienated from today’s politics due to the extreme differences between candidates, but our student government’s dedication to honesty, trust and reliance on one another should be a good indication of where the world is heading. In an election where most of our friends and colleagues will be able to vote for the first time, let’s make sure they carry out that right and remember that we have the power and the knowledge to fix what’s broken.
Shellie Frai is a sophomore studying Journalism and Economics. Her favorite things coincidently all start in F: Food, Fashion and Frais.