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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

SB#4 task force demands proper representation

11/4/15 4:16am

Following her proposal to implement a mandatory critical thinking and sexuality course for new students, Student Association President Jazz Silva has introduced Senate Bill #4 that creates a student task force to develop the course’s content and structure (see p. 1). Students should pay attention to the debate and outcome of this legislation, no matter where they stand on the original proposal; currently, no one knows what the course will look like, just that the composition of the task force will play a significant role in shaping it. Silva must thus ensure the task force accurately represents campus.

So far, Silva has added members to the task force based only on the interest they have expressed to her in helping to develop the class. While it is important that members of the task force are invested, this selection process could lead to a group consisting exclusively of those who strongly support the project as it has already been envisioned. Silva must take care to include not only the loudest voices or only supporters. A small group of members who are self-selected or chosen by just one person could easily become an echo chamber unable to fairly judge valid criticism.

The task force should include those with reservations about the proposed course. Instead of disregarding a substantial proportion of the student body – over 30 percent of the students who voted in surveys at several residential colleges – that does not support the class as proposed, the task force must work to understand and address their concerns. Whether expressed openly or not, differing sentiments present in the student body now will also be present in incoming freshmen who would be mandated to enroll in the course. The best way to create a course that will challenge students to think critically is for dissenting perspectives to have a voice throughout its creation.

Silva should delegate the responsibility of appointing further members to the Senate or an impartial party. In doing so, Silva would ensure that her advocacy of her proposed class does not conflict with her duty as president to include all parts of the student body. At the very least, to uphold strong ethical standards, Silva should address her conflict of interest as both the proposer of the course and creator of the task force. The Senate should consider whether this situation necessitates a constitutional change to mitigate any future conflicts of interest for proceeding presidents who propose bills.

More Senators should be appointed to the task force, as they have already gathered representative feedback from their colleges and have legitimacy as elected officials in representing their college’s voice. Concerned students have a right to be a part of the task force, but it’s important to acknowledge and address that these students are not representatives of whatever groups in which they are a part, whether that be college, ethnicity, religion, gender or otherwise.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

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