Student government communication unsolved by Student Senate Week

Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor

Student government has an image problem.

A common perception of student government at Carnegie Mellon is that it is ineffective and pointless. To some extent this perception is accurate, but it stems mainly from student government leaders’ inability to communicate their ideas and accomplishments to the student body. Student Senate attempted to address this difficulty with last week’s Senate Week events, and while they were a step in the right direction, they did little to inform the average Carnegie Mellon student about the role that Senate and student government play in undergraduate students’ lives.

Despite Senate Week and other modest efforts by undergraduate student government leaders to raise awareness, most students cannot name a Senator from their college; many also cannot identify the current student body president and vice presidents. While some of the responsibility for this ignorance lies with students for failing to be informed about their leaders, most of it lies with the student government leadership.

In January, we expressed our disappointment with the first half of the administration of then-executives Jarrett Adams and Kate Smith for their failure to achieve their campaign goals and to maintain a dialogue with the student body. Although current Student Body President Jake Flittner and Student Body Vice President Sangita Sharma have been in office for close to two months now, we are dismayed to see the same lack of communication.

On the student government executive web page, as of last Saturday, the “Members” list has not been updated since last year — Adams, Smith, former Vice President for Organizations Aaron Gross, and former Vice President for Finance Eric Wu are listed instead of the current leaders. The “Projects” page remains blank. The Tartan Rewards Program page still lists events from last semester.

The @cmuexec Twitter account has been occasionally updated since the start of the semester, but with eight followers, it is hardly an effective way to reach the student body. Student government’s Facebook page, which has about 350 fans, has not been updated since the end of last semester.
If Carnegie Mellon’s student government leaders are serious about enhancing communication with the student body — and we hope they are — then they need to take advantage of the resources they already have. Although the Senate holds weekly public meetings, we believe that a separate forum needs to be created strictly for student feedback. At the very least, Senate needs to make its existing meetings more visible.

This could easily be done by inviting students to meetings via Facebook events, actively expanding its official Twitter following, updating the student government executive web page, and utilizing all of the technological resources available to it. Furthering communication between undergraduates and their representatives should be a top priority for student government.