"One step forward, one step back"

Conflicting amendments passed by SA Assembly and Senate alter students' voting rights

The Student Association Assembly and Senate passed conflicting amendments simultaneously expanding and limiting the power of UB student voters.
The Assembly voted to revise its election guidelines Wednesday, designating that presidential and vice presidential candidates run on separate ballots. The same night, the Student Association Senate held an impromptu meeting and passed an amendment permitting the SA president to appoint SUNY delegates, rather than allowing students to elect the delegates.
Though the Assembly's decision is, for the most part, worth celebrating, the Senate's decision merits only criticism. SUNY delegates exist to represent the concerns and opinions of students, not the SA president. The president already enjoys a position of power and exerts a great deal of influence over the experience of the UB student body.
Expanding the president's authority is unnecessary, and when such an extension of control occurs at the expense of student representation, it's nothing short of deplorable.
The hasty manner in which this decision was made only garners more criticism for the Senate. The amendment was passed in a last-minute meeting and with such rapidity that one senator abstained from the vote - Senator and SA President-elect James Ingram did not vote and said senators needed more time for discussion.
The Senate's meeting Wednesday contributes to the development of a worrisome trend as the group adds to its growing list of rapid-fire amendments to SA policy. In February, the Senate passed six amendments in less than an hour, including far-from-trivial guidelines that determined the representation of off-campus students.
The Senate is supposed to represent the student body and give careful consideration when making decisions - decisions that impact students' experience and the effectiveness of their student government. The elimination of students' right to elect their delegates, and the manner in which this change was determined embodies the Senate's failure on both counts.
With its far less lamentable amendment, the Assembly's decision to separate to presidential and vice presidential candidates gives students greater freedom while voting. The move could contribute to government dysfunction if candidates from different tickets, with conflicting opinions and goals, are elected. But student voters can consider this possibility when they make their decision - the choice is in their hands, as it rightly should be.
The potential for dysfunction is undoubtedly problematic but that possible discord does not supplant the prospect of productive conflict. A president should be challenged and questioned by his or her second-in-command; students shouldn't simply be electing a "yes-man" for the position.
Student leaders with different opinions may have to learn to cooperate. This isn't a problem, but an attribute of a balanced government. If candidates from different parties are forced to work together, a greater diversity of students and their perspectives is represented.
The Assembly's decision was unanimous, and understandably so. Allowing greater flexibility in the election of student leaders will ensure that the most deserving candidates are elected on the basis of their individual merit rather than the attributes of their running partner. This new policy protects and expands students' rights to representation and freedom as voters and helps to combat the Senate's hurried amendment that does the opposite.
email: editorial@ubspectrum.com