Opinion: With more power comes … less responsibility

Student government is an interesting and useful thing. It provides the student body with the ability to have a say when it comes to interactions between students and faculty, as well as allowing student voices to be heard and recognized when it comes to larger issues pertaining to the campus.

However, there’s a particular trend amongst these governments and their interactions with faculty: They perceive their abilities to be much more powerful than they assume, act as a quasi-independent organization and have an unsettling tendency to distance themselves from their constituents. In short, they are ineffective governments.

Firstly, many student governments tend to assume that the powers granted to them allows them to make swift and direct changes on campus. For example, if the student government attempted to change the hiring process for instructors or the way the campus spent its income — and such changes did not occur within a short time frame — both the student government and faculty would encounter frustration. Furthermore, such changes would have to be proposed to administrators, deans, faculty and others who would be affected by major changes to school policy.

Secondly, the desire for quasi­ independent student governments decreases their power from if they were more closely linked with the administration. As an outside organization, their ability to connect with university administrators — as well as the student body — becomes weaker. As a result, they can represent the opinions or desires of the student body even less. This would ultimately become the greatest challenge and the greatest setback a student government could face. If a student government doesn’t connect with the student body or the administration it’s connected to, how can it represent the desires of the students?

It should be noted that the desire for an independent student government is a result of frustrations between the student government and the administration they try to work with. While the desire to become more self-determinate seems like the logical step, the end result would be the opposite: a government that represents its own interests and cannot functionally cooperate with the campus administration. Student government is important, but it needs to stay close to the administration to be the most effective at representing the student body.