Temple Student Government should focus less on in-house policies and more on issues students can relate to.
For the better half of the Spring 2010 semester, I spent my Monday nights drowning in the sound of a group of students debating bills in barely coherent political babble. For my sanity, I stopped attending these Temple Student Government meetings.
Months later, I’m disappointed to learn that, despite a bill that called for TSG to remodel its structure, making it more student-friendly, the organization has yet to truly address its student body.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many TSG members, and I can attest to their characters and work ethic. I also believe they had the right intentions in seeking to improve student life when they assumed their respective positions. Sadly, intentions don’t always provide tangible results.
“We have done some really great things over the past few years, but we need input,” TSG Senate President Colin Saltry recently told The Temple News in an e-mail. “If we generate all the ideas, what’s the point of calling TSG a government? That sounds more like a politburo to me.”
But when and how has this recognition transpired in actual communication?
Saltry said TSG’s approach this year is focused on researching and testing ideas before presenting them, making sure the organization is being “taken seriously.”
I’m all about professionalism, but at some point, it’s necessary to separate looking the part from doing the job; the latter seems to be the issue.
Since its first senate meeting of the semester, TSG has passed 11 bills, nine of which were confirmations for TSG members. The remaining two bills passed were for an internal point system to allow its members to receive compensation for exceptional work and to recognize Campus Safety Services for its efforts this year.
These bills are prime examples of why students aren’t engaged with the organization: It’s too focused on in-house policies.
Most Monday nights, the political babble was not a result of incompetence or ignorance, but because of TSG members’ tendency to nitpick and argue over miniscule details.
At its last senate meeting, members spent the duration of the meeting debating the election codes for the spring elections, arguing over word choice. Call me crass, but do students really care? Save all involved parties some valued time; spend less time on the code and more time on important issues.
If TSG is spending so much time on policies that only affect itself, its members are impeding opportunities to target the student body at large.
While some bills presented during the last academic year were ineffective because the organization didn’t have the authority to enact certain proposals, at least they proved TSG stood for something.
For instance, at the last Spring 2010 TSG senate meeting, former School of Communications and Theater Senator Malcolm Kenyatta introduced a bill calling for GLBT classes to fulfill the Race and Diversity requirement under the general education program. While research later proved this to not be feasible, at least the bill took the initiative on a student issue.
By no means am I saying that proposing improbable bills is a step in the right direction. But perhaps pairing the organization’s professionalism with issues students can relate to would make for better results.
While Saltry and TSG Student Body President Natalie Ramos-Castillo have recognized student engagement as a problem, I think the root of the problem is in how the “umbrella” organization does business. TSG’s meetings are not only lengthy and tiresome, but they reflect its indirect tendency to focus more on appearance than action.
The only time TSG truly invites the student body to convene is once a month at its “State of the Campus address.” That sounds about as appealing as going to a funeral for a neighbor that I’ve never met.
If, by some tragedy, TSG members’ “plain English” has been completely replaced by political incoherence, let this be a reminder to TSG: Students are the most vital part in being an effective organization – whereas “S” stands for students, whereas students make up the very backbone to your system – be it enacted by one student’s opinion that TSG should focus on student issues if it expects to be fully supported by the constituents it seeks votes from.
Angelo Fichera can be reached at email@example.com.