What Does it Mean to be a Senator?
Here at SUNY Poly, the students are represented by the Student Government at Utica, or SGU. The SGU consists of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Chief Justice, Senators, Org Heads, Director of Orgs, Coordinator, College Council, and their Advisor. This group of people is chosen to represent the student body. This would be well and good, except many of the Senators forget about this part of their jobs. By applying to run for election and signing their contracts, they agree to a set responsibilities and are expected to uphold them. However, many, if not all of the Senators are not complying with the terms of their contracts in one way or another. Frankly, it is ridiculous how much petty garbage the students of this campus have to sit through in order to hear their Senators misrepresent them.
Anyone who was at the meeting on February 9th would be hard-pressed to pick out just one of the many instances of students being misrepresented, but we can still look at a few examples. Notice that many of the Senators do not say a word or provide input at all. At most, these Senators will quietly giggle and laugh when arguments get heated. This needs to be addressed as it is impossible to have a meaningful discussion when only a few Senators speak. It is also very hard to voice the opinions of the students you represent if you do not speak. This lack of input is a major problem, and by not participating in the discussion they are doing a disservice to the students.
Likewise, there are other ways to conduct yourself during a SGU meeting that are wildly inappropriate. To start, the blatant disrespect some of the Senators have for other members of the SGU is inexcusable. This shameless display of pride seems to have no purpose other than to try to diminish other members of the SGU and the community. These acts are often unnecessary and snipes made by one member in the SGU towards another, but a few larger actions in particular were made at the meeting on February 9th and they need to be discussed. First, Senators Alexander Turner, and Kirk Ebuna exited while AHAB’s budget needed revising, breaking quorum. Senator Turner refused to respond to the President and the Vice President, who asked him to stay so they could push the vote through. Instead, he continued out the door, an action that was unneeded and disrespectful. In a similar fashion Senator Kirk said he was going to “nap” when asked to cite his reasoning for leaving. This was extremely disrespectful to everyone in the room, and proved that he does not care about his position. Earlier, Senator Ebuna motioned to limit the speech of the student body during discussion, which is nonsensical considering the role of the SGU is to hear the voice of the students. With these actions, Senator Ebuna and Senator Turner showed indifference for their jobs and their responsibility.
Also, Senator Hunter Pieniazek did not uphold highest standards of integrity and professionalism after the meeting. Senator Pieniazek yelled and chased after Senator Ebuna because he was frustrated with Senator Kirk’s contempt for his job as Senator. Senator Pieniazek actions after the meeting were not appropriate. To his credit, Senator Pieniazek’s actions show that he has a passion for his job, which is not an attribute I see from many of the other Senators.
The Secession bill is one of the biggest bills being considered this semester and most of the student body doesn’t have a clue what is going on. I have seen no attempts by any of the Senators to reach out and talk to the students to get a sense of that the community wants. At the SGU meeting, this speculation made it abundantly clear that the Senators are very disconnected from the student body and have no clue how they should be voting on issues in order to best representing the student body.
At the most recent SGU meeting on February 16, the students have once again gone unheard by the Senate. A resolution was proposed to limit the number of wifi devices to three per student. A resolution like this could have a great effect on the students of SUNY Poly, and because of this, a few student had opinions they wanted to share. However, once again the students were shot down by the Senate. This means that a majority of the Senators chose to not let the students voice their concerns. By not doing this, they directly break the standard that I believe the Senators should hold themselves to.
In contrast, Craig Clark, president of CFB is someone who fills his role well. He is a student on this campus in a position of authority over club funding. Craig makes himself extremely approachable and has had no problem speaking with club executives and club members. I really think Senators should look to Craig as an example of a student who takes his job very seriously and has constant open dialogue with students. Senators need to start talking with students in a casual way like this to see if there is anything they can do better for the student body. It should also be required that Senators hold a dedicated open forum to speak with students face to face. As it stands right now, there seems to be no good way of bringing concerns to the Senators as individuals or as a group. I also believe Senators should make a greater effort to speak with students, outside of official meetings. It is very rare, if ever, I see this occur around campus and I think if they started speaking with students there would be less speculation about what the students on campus want.
Recently it seems that the SGU, and especially the Senate, is more concerned with themselves rather that the students they represent. The Senators have put forward an awful example of what it means to represent and it seems like they have no remorse and no acceptable excuse for the way they have been conducting themselves. I don’t know what kind of legacy the current SGU hopes to leave, but right now the outlook does not look good. Hopefully, their conduct will change soon.