Last spring, the Augustana Student Association (ASA) voted on the removal of five voting members from the ASA senate. These positions included: apartment/theme house, off-campus, sophomore, junior and senior senators. Ultimately, they voted that these positions not be removed.
However, there is still much debate over whether or not this was the right decision.
Those who were in favor of the removal stated reasons such as members not being able to express their opinions, better senate communication and lack of current project involvement for all senators. Those who were against the removal thought it would decrease student representation on campus.
In response, at the first full senate meeting on Sept. 22, 2019, senior senator Ryan Solberg proposed a motion that restated the values and obligations of the senators of ASA. It included ideas of preparation for meetings, diligence with projects and acting in the best interest of the student body.
The motion was unanimously passed.
Yes, fewer seats would make ASA connected, efficient
The Augustana Student Association (ASA) proposed cutting down the number of voting senators by five people last spring, with the positions including: off campus, apartment theme house, sophomore, junior and senior.
The discussion had been tabled until ASA’s last meeting, when senior senator Ryan Solberg proposed a motion restating obligations of the senators of ASA. Debate directly turned to the size of the senate.
The idea of cutting down the amount of voting members isn’t a new proposal.
Solberg said when he was a freshman, then-student body president Mason Van Essen discussed cutting the amount of senators to increase efficiency.
If our school has been discussing cutting the five members for years but no one has taken action, I argue that the potential benefits of removing the members outweigh the costs of remaining the same.
First, cutting members would make the number of senators more realistic. Let’s take a look at other schools in South Dakota for reference.
Augustana has too many senators in ratio to the rest of our student population. According to graduate Tyler Beck, last year’s vice president of ASA, South Dakota State University has 11,000 undergraduate students with 27 senators and University of South Dakota has 7,500 undergraduate students with 24 senators. Meanwhile, Augustana has 1,700 undergraduate students with 24 voting members.
According to Rebekah Tuchscherer’s live-tweets from ASA’s meeting last April, various members of ASA, including Hank Freese, Hailey Nold, and Grace Fjellanger, expressed concerns about the effects of this large ratio.
Although some argue that a higher amount of student senators equates to an increased representation of student diversity, too many students trying to express their opinions for a small student body leaves many voices feeling unrepresented. A smaller number of senators would mean a greater percentage of senators are actually heard and involved.
Nold spoke to the fact last spring that members of the senate don’t always have things to work on. Decreasing the amount of seats would not only increase productivity by individual senators, but it would also increase the variety of independent responsibilities. In addition, having a smaller number of senators would result in a more interconnected senate body.
Having more senators slows down the voting process and splits up the work between more individuals, reducing workload and decreasing productivity for each member. Students taking senator positions typically want more active roles in their communities. Giving each of them less to do creates a group of people elected to a position that doesn’t provide them with any chance to act on their promises.
While the amount of voting members has continued to increase, no evidence has been shown for increased efficiency. Instead, ASA senators have said that it reduces productivity, diversity of opinions and closeness between members. It’s time for Augustana to make a move and improve ASA for years to come.
Julia Johnson is a sophomore journalism and communications major from Missoula, M.T.
No, cutting seats lowers representation
Last spring, members of the 2018-2019 Augustana Student Association (ASA) proposed cutting five senator seats to improve efficiency within student government. According to a previous Mirror article by Alexa Ankrum, one seat would be cut from each of the following groups: off campus, apartment/theme house, sophomores, juniors and seniors. While this proposal was not passed, there is always a chance it will be proposed again. Should that day come, I would recommend ASA senators vote it down once more.
I’m not sure if anyone has ever done this, but I looked through Viking Central to find the ASA constitution. As a busy student, I did not have time to read all of it — however, I got the gist of it. The constitution lays out the basic structure of ASA and its operating policies.
One line in particular caught my eye. Article II of the constitution states: “The ASA strives to guarantee the rule of the majority, the right of the minority, and the freedom of students to inform and be informed as their conscience dictates.” If this is the goal, then why is the idea of cutting seats even being considered?
Cutting seats from any group would lower representation of that group within the student government. Lower levels of representation would create a minority group within ASA, going against the group’s purpose. Doesn’t that make this proposal unconstitutional?
I understand why senators proposed cutting seats last spring. Efficiency and government have never been synonymous even on a student government level. By cutting seats, it would hopefully be easier to come to a consensus simply because there are less people. Lowering the chances of disagreement would make ASA more efficient. However, I would argue that justice and equality trumps efficiency any day.
Consider, for example, if you bought a winter coat. Would you rather that coat have been made quickly and run the risk of having several holes or manufacturing errors that would have to be repeatedly fixed, or have a coat that took time to make but was made right? Seems like an easy answer to me, but if you’re into a winter coat that’s riddled with holes, you do you, I guess.
It’s the same concept if you cut senator seats from ASA. Lowered representation could lead to “holes” within the legislation. Those holes, like the ones in the poorly made winter coat, would have to be fixed over and over again. The repeated fixing of these holes would likely make ASA less efficient, completely defeating the purpose of this proposed cut.
Additionally, cutting seats in ASA would lower the opportunities that students have to participate in student government. The entire point of college is to provide students with a variety of opportunities, including student government, so that they may find their calling.
If ASA were to cut senator seats, ASA would be limiting opportunities for students and potentially robbing them of a chance to find that calling. In doing so, ASA would be going against the entire purpose of Augustana: to help students find their place in the world.
This proposition should not even be considered. Leave the number of senator positions within ASA as it is now, because — however inefficient it may be — at least everyone is being given the opportunity to join student government and is represented enough to have their voices heard.
Lauren Kelly is a freshman biology and English major from Sioux Falls, S.D.
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