By Tyler Short
During the recent election, most of the statements from the candidates running for Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) included variations of the phrase, “I want to represent student voices on campus.” This is a nice sentiment, but I do not think that ASLC is currently acting on this intention effectively. ASLC suffers from a representation issue, one that is apparent from the deficiency in active communication with the student body. Additionally, this issue may be deepened in the future from the potential lack of substantial diversity in socio-economic background and age in the senate due to low salaries. Representation lays the foundation that helps shape the entire nature and subsequent decisions of our student government. Therefore, broad institutional changes should be one of their primary priorities.
ASLC needs to work to improve how it listens to the student body. Students have opinions about issues at our school, yet they often struggle to identify an avenue where they can be expressed, damaging the representation of our concerns. While the level of engagement is ultimately up to the students, ASLC could achieve stronger communication with students by hosting convient online polls, forums or even town-hall meetings.
Additionally, with the low senate salaries, the incentive to join ASLC is weak, which could possibly lead to a lack of diversity within the senate. Considering the magnitude of ASLC’s responsibilities, the senate has a significantly small stipend: $100 per semester for each senator. Particularly, the stipend affects students of lower socio-economic standing, for they may be unable to join ASLC because they need work that provides significant financial compensation. Additionally, it could be affecting the level of age representation in ASLC, for the majority of ASLC senators are freshman and sophomores. As graduation looms, so too does the responsibility of finding gainful employment and working through the intimidating ambiguity of life after college, which can discourage older students from remaining active in LC politics.
ASLC largely relies on students’ admirable investment in enacting change as its main source of incentive, but unfortunately it is not enough. Therefore, the stipend should be raised to promote greater diversity of membership. In no way am I minimizing the effort of current members, who upon being elected commit themselves to representing the LC student body with integrity. However, it is undeniable that more diversity would increase the variation of perspective in the organization. Consequently, this would heighten the amount of representation all LC students receive.
Within ASLC reside representatives from other student groups including the Black Student Union, the Feminist Student Union and the Queer Student Union, among others. These representatives provide an additional degree of communication with ASLC by addressing concerns specific to their organization and the people they represent, yet there are still many other student groups that lack representatives. Including more organizations runs the risk of hyperpluralism in our student government, as an overprevelance of differing interests may inhibit the senate’s ability to enact policy. However, there are marginalized voices that deserve representative positions. For example, the Asian Student Union could be a student group to consider. It’s an unfortunate truth, but not all voices can receive substantial representation in ASLC. Therefore, it should be a collaborative effort from the whole student body to draw the line of where representation ends.
The life of a student is all-consuming, sometimes so much so that we forget the fact that we attend an imperfect institution that needs improvement. There are important issues at our school that require direct engagement from ASLC, other organizations and the general student body. Passivity in the endeavors of LC’s policy has no place at our school. It only breeds rash decisions, unfavorable conditions and discontentment. As students, we have an obligation to the wellbeing of our school and the community we call home. Not only for the sake of our personal experiences at LC, but for those who are still to come.