Editorial: Next SA should open doors
Every election cycle, candidates push to increase the diversity of ideas that make their way from the student body to the Student Association Senate. As newly elected leaders take their positions at both the college and the SA Senate level, we have several significant changes — outside of constitutional reform — that we believe would increase the flow of ideas from the student body to its leaders.
Our first suggestion is that the SA Senate consider a “flipped-classroom” model to increase the amount of time spent discussing legislation and working group findings. A typical SA Senate meeting involves several presentations, and these presentations are often followed by limited discussion either due to time constraints or an audience unable to prepare questions. We believe SA Senate meetings would be far more productive if presentations were sent out beforehand to those on the SA listserv in addition to the legislation that is already sent out. Then, time typically spent on the presentation itself could be dedicated to discussion and debate, which ultimately allows for a greater breadth and depth of ideas.
A second change involves increasing the transparency of meetings outside of SA Senate. Senator meetings are intended to be open, according to SA President Ariana Engles. However, the SA constitution defines an open meeting as one where the “date, time and location is announced to members of the SA at least 24 hours” in advance. There is no mention of senator meetings on the SA listserv, website, calendar or emailed SA Senate meeting minutes — the only approved media for announcing an open meeting.
In addition, the current president meetings are not clearly defined or advertised as open. When senators and presidents meet privately and separately, they are more likely to arrive at SA Senate with monolithic opinions that stifle debate. To hold senators and presidents accountable to a standard of nuanced discussion that avoids groupthink, meetings of all senators and all college presidents should be well-advertised as open to the public and the press. Otherwise, students miss the opportunity to challenge ideas before voting members establish their opinions on matters.
Finally, we believe the president should avoid a strict cap of one hour on SA Senate meetings. Of course, no one wants a three-hour long SA Senate meeting. But in the case of impassioned debate on important issues or a lengthy agenda, there is no need to cut critical discussions short for the sake of leaving right at 10 p.m.
More from The Rice Thresher
Rice’s 111-year history is marked by lots of positive impact — and plenty of harmful actions. William Marsh Rice, the university’s founder and namesake, was a slave owner, and from the school’s establishment as a free institution for only white students to Ku Klux Klan meetings occurring on Rice property, the connections to segregation and racial injustice cannot be denied.
After years of student protest and the final report from the Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice, construction crews have removed the Founder’s Memorial statue from its pedestal. Willy’s statue will no longer be the centerpiece of the campus’ main quad.
After seven students were transported to the hospital at Night of Decadence Oct. 28 and the public was shut down nearly two hours early, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman announced that all publics through spring break would be canceled and Pub Night would be only open to 21+ students until further notice. Many students have responded with upset and even anger at this decision, sharing thoughts on Fizz and creating petitions about the matter. While it is fair to be sad about the loss of some important college traditions, we need to consider how severe the alcohol situation on campus has gotten to necessitate this decision.