To The Torch staff and students of Valparaiso University:

In the past few weeks on campus, which has consisted of campaigns, debates and elections for Student Senate President and Vice President, it has come to my attention that many students are not aware of what Student Senate entails. With a lack of understanding of the complex goals and expectations of positions, popularity and involvement in other campus roles became the lead factors when choosing students for these positions. Leadership skills, qualifications, and a working knowledge of Student Senate are thrown to the wayside as students cast their votes based on who they know, and not who would actually represent the student body and create an impact on campus.

This past election has caused quite a controversy among the Student Senate, but the average student either does not truly understand the meaning of what just happened or they honestly do not care. Electing someone without proper understanding and experience into the presidential position will have a huge impact in this coming year, and the burden will fall to the rest of senate in order to pick up the slack created by a president who is unaware of how Student Senate functions.

In no disregard to the president-elect’s other qualifications, his lack of senate experience will undoubtedly lead to either slower progression for Student Senate or a lack of progress altogether, as he will have to learn the nature of the position while being a part of senate for the first time ever. I would like to mention a very widespread rumor going around campus claiming the current president-elect ran as a joke. No one can confirm if this is fact or fiction, but we do know from The Torch coverage that two of the three candidates had concrete ideas and had thought their way through their possible future as president, and the other merely had vague ideas and catch-phrases.

Not once during the debate or in coverage did he explain how he would go about “capitalizing on Valpo’s potential” or representing the unrepresented, because he lacks a fundamental understanding of senate and its roles. This recent Student Senate executive election reflects that people vote based on who their friends are and not who actually has the best ideas and the most knowledge about how to get things done. And if the rumor is unfortunately correct, then he will quickly see he’s in over his head.

In the last issue of The Torch, the article titled “Resolution requires senate experience,” was about Student Senate passing SR-003, which would require any person running for Student Senate President to be a member of Student Senate for at least one year on senate. There was an exception available though so that a person with one semester on senate could run for president if that person met with the screening committee, who would then decide if that person has adequate knowledge of Student Senate’s mission, constitution and its limitations. This would have been an essential addition to the constitution of Student Senate.

A week after it was passed, it was unfortunate to see Student Body President Nura Zaki veto the vote at the general assembly meeting on April 10. With such discourse still evident among the senators, there is a question of whether this decision is truly representative of the student body.

For example, consider any other organization on campus. If a random student who had never participated in the group before walked up and said, “I want to be your new organization president,” that person would have been laughed out of the room. Not requiring any working knowledge of Student Senate will prevent progress and change from occurring; it will block senate from addressing the issues of the student body because the president will be too busy trying to learn a completely new process.

While it is clear that someone who is truly dedicated to the position could attain the knowledge to be effective in this position, it is also evident that this could only happen over time. This means the responsibilities and expectations of the president would be passed onto someone else to handle, such as the vice president or the senators overall. By passing the burden of the president’s job to someone else, while this may allow the president to learn the job, it is also hindering the work those other senate members could be doing involving the organizations they serve as liaisons to or other work they could be doing for the Valparaiso community.

Though it is important to note that President Zaki explained at length reasons for and against the SR, it’s also important to realize that the president of the student body has obligations to present senate in a positive light. How would it look if the entire Student Senate said in an SR that they don’t approve of an inexperienced president, when this type of candidate won the election? Even if she was in favor of the SR, it’s possible that because of the hypocrisy senate would then reflect, Zaki had to veto it. She mentioned during her veto statement that she spoke with the advisers of Student Senate before making her decision. Is it possible that the advisers didn’t want this SR to pass into our constitution? After all, one of those advisors is Dean of Students, whose objective may be to leave it open to as many students as possible regardless of qualification. 

I know some students don’t find Student Senate to be worthwhile or interesting; I understand to many it is dry or boring. But that doesn’t mean that you can disregard the hard work involved in senate. I’ve heard everything from “It’s not like senate can do anything anyway,” to “you’re just a bunch of political science majors in a club.” While these incredibly inaccurate statements are often repeated across campus, that doesn’t mean those involved don’t matter or our opinion has no foundation.

Being the president of Student Senate means being the link from Student Senate to the surrounding Valparaiso University community. We have been trained in representation and advocating for others, and we also have an understanding of how to go about dealing with Valpo’s administrative side. This opportunity has been widely available to any student on campus who would have joined senate at any point over the past years while they have had seats open consistently every semester. Instead, people have recently decided to run without ever first filling one of the many open roles on senate.

While the president-elect has received a variety of praise or criticism for his lack of senate experience, it is undeniable that he has had ample opportunities to have first been a member of senate in some capacity before deciding to run as president. In the past three years, there have consistently been openings in which he could have applied for or fulfilled. As a student at this university, it is difficult to understand how someone can say they want to represent and advocate for campus now when he didn’t claim any dedication to his interest in the past. I find determinacy and passion to be extremely important qualities in a president, and I would like to see this veto be overturned at the next Student Senate meeting.


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