They say a politician’s best friend is the media. Perhaps that is why several senators chose to speak with me regarding their concerns on the lack of transparency regarding our own Student Senate at Roger Williams University. “Last year’s E-Board was very transparent. But they really don’t like bad press. They HATE being criticized,” one senator said, agreeing to speak on the condition of anonymity. My goal is not to write an inflammatory article against any particular individuals within the senate, but to allow readers to decide for themselves if they approve of the actions of their elected officials.
To begin, I believe that the design of the student senate is not conducive to transparency. In real elections, states are broken up into districts. Because politicians are directly accountable for the people in their district, voters can easily decide whether or not the people they voted for should be reelected.
Our student senate is instead voted on by the entire student body—not a portion which they are directly assigned to serve. This means that if you feel one member of the student senate has not been acting with integrity, you cannot directly run against them; you can only hope that they will get fewer votes than every other person running for senate. Student senators at other colleges have a certain group for which they are held accountable, and as such, must take their job very seriously. Many schools even pay their senators a stipend. While we must understand these are volunteer positions, we elect people to these jobs. These students are responsible for 1.2 million dollars that you, the student body, pay to go to here. Anytime your club asks for money, or you go to a school event, these are the people in control.
Now that my speech on the value of political efficacy is over, I’d turn your attention to the recent student body president election. Former parliamentarian Polina Boily was recently elected over former student senator Tyler Mercer, along with several other senators being shifted around in their cabinet positions. While this may seem entirely normal, there may have been other factors at play affecting these decisions.
Before I get into what happened, let me first explain how the process works. As the student body president, Polina is responsible for selecting the Parliamentarian—a non-voting position—responsible for keeping order within meetings based on the rules outlined by the senate constitution and bylaws. Furthermore, she is responsible for appointing chairs of committee positions based on recommendations from previous chairs. According to multiple sources from within the senate, Polina made several public promises to senators on how she would make her decisions. Parliamentarian would be given to two-year senator Jake Brostuen and Finance Chair would be assigned as a joint position between previous finance chair Paul Manfredi and Henry (Tyler) Lanciaux. Here are how things actually turned out:
Parliamentarian: Henry (Tyler) Lanciaux.
Originally publicly promised a joint finance chair position with previous finance chair, Polina decided instead to give him the position of Parliamentarian. Jake Brostuen who was originally promised the position of Parliamentarian, has instead been given…
Clubs and Orgs Chair: Jake Brostuen
Traditionally, committee chairs are chosen from people who have sat on committees before because they will have had the experience to run the position. Jake, however, was chosen to take the head of a committee he has never sat on.
As for Tyler, now that he was not in a joint-finance chair, one would expect that the position be given to the former finance chair, Paul Manfredi, who recommended himself for the position. That leads us to the new finance chair, none other than…
Finance Chair: Lindsey Lopez.
Previously a general senator, Lindsey Lopez was chosen to take the position of finance committee chair.
“Now it really feels like a buddy-buddy system. Personal favors and subjective decision-making is the very definition of corruption in a democracy,” sources said. While all of these appointments were confirmed by a majority vote within the student senate, one senator commented saying, “No one ever opposes appointments. That’s like insulting your friend to their face. Senators shouldn’t be influenced to vote for people because they are friends. They should vote the best people for the job.”
When reached out to for comment on these issues, Student Body President Polina Boily responded saying: “When picking my appointments, I took my past three years of experience on Senate combined with a multitude of other factors and as seen by last weeks minutes, the majority of Senate 43 agreed with me. I encourage anyone who would like to express concern on my appointments to personally reach out to me or come to any of our General Senate meetings at 6:30 on Mondays starting next semester.”
Hopefully this means that, while some may find the appointments questionable, they will prove to have been the best selections for the positions, and that next year’s senate 43 act with transparency.
Re-posted from: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/student-senate-transparency