SA voting members: Why we think Wickerson is the right choice for president
During our time in the Student Association Senate, we’ve seen and experienced how students can be cynical about the SA’s leadership, efficacy and ability to reach all members of the student body. The SA Senate has fallen short on several occasions, and we have a responsibility to proactively address shortcomings and critically evaluate how it can better serve the student body. However, lasting change takes time and forethought, as evidenced by the three-year process that it took to thoughtfully revise our current constitution. Since then, SA members have successfully advocated for further structural changes to improve the organization and make it more accessible. Never once during that process has one student, let alone one who has never held a position in the SA, declared to have all the answers to how a body representing 4,000 unique students could make itself better.
For all its imperfections, the SA remains one of the most effective mechanisms we have to make change on campus. Gutting an organization that led the university to implement the Critical Thinking in Sexuality course, centralized resources for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and coordinated our efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey demonstrates a disregard for the importance of these issues. This year alone, the SA has worked on expanding services to refugee students, equalizing financial aid for international students, implementing a composting initiative campuswide, creating a resource booklet for OC students, identifying ways to expand African presence in academia and evaluating ways that the university can better address the needs of low-income and first-generation students. Casting a vote for a candidate like Freddy Cavallaro, whose campaign seeks to dismantle the structure that makes this work possible, is a disservice to those who have benefitted from these efforts.
Cavallaro’s positions are not rooted in an understanding of how the SA actually works:
1. For accessibility, requiring a single voting member to sponsor legislation isn’t a barrier to nonvoting members. Just this year non-Senate members have brought concerns about the Visual and Dramatic Arts department, refugees and international students to members of the SA Senate and, after discussing what the process for introducing legislation would be, used the SA’s structure to work on these issues.
2. For accountability, all SA Senate voting members are already required to submit the monthly progress reports that Freddy suggests, and both the University Court and the process of impeachment can remove irresponsible members from Senate. Giving a single person, like the external vice president as Freddy proposes, the ability to unilaterally remove someone from office creates obvious issues with college autonomy and personal politicking.
3. For diversity of thought, every week the senators, college presidents, and SA Executive Team have meetings within their groups during which they discuss issues on campus and legislation that is pending in the SA Senate. These meetings allow members to share their thoughts and articulate concerns before bringing them to the full SA Senate. Furthermore, as Freddy would know if he’d ever been to a single SA Senate meeting, all students, regardless of whether or not they are a voting member, can discuss legislation at SA Senate.
4. Freddy’s proposed change to raise the voting threshold to two-thirds from a simple majority on bills would have affected the passage of exactly zero pieces of legislation in the last four years.
5. Between the four of us, we’ve chaired six working groups or task forces and have only once received two-thirds of our applications from students who aren’t involved in the SA Senate, despite reaching out to every college. Freddy’s proposal to implement a requirement that a maximum of one-third of all working group members be voting members of SA Senate would hinder the SA Senate’s ability to address short-term problems and issues that come to our attention throughout the year.
Conversely, we’ve all seen firsthand the passion Grace Wickerson pours into every bit of their work in the SA. Their proven competence and genuine concern for students would make them both an exceptional leader and an effective manager of the SA’s structure. Most relevant to this election, they have never complained about the SA’s problems from the sidelines; they have spent their entire three years at Rice actively addressing them. By co-sponsoring a variety of legislation brought to them by students not involved in the SA Senate, they’ve ensured that the SA Senate is actually accessible to the people it represents. By streamlining STI testing reimbursement at the Rice University Student Health Services Office, they’ve shown an ability to liaise with administrators productively. Behind each achievement to Grace’s name is a student who can vouch for the difference it made to their Rice experience.
If you believe every Rice student should have a student government that listens to and tirelessly advocates for their interests, you should vote for Grace. If every SA member were as hard-working and deliberative as them, most of the SA Senate’s shortcomings would fix themselves. And not only can we not say that about any other candidate for SA president this year, it’s hard to say that about any other student at Rice.
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