Last night’s USG Senate Meeting was the final one for this academic year. The meeting itself was relatively lighthearted and non-controversial. Some time was spent debating and approving a report by Senators Curran and Vincent, which highlighted many instances of the University’s failure to give easy access to its buildings to handicapped persons, noting among other matters the numerous non-functioning handicap buttons in residential areas. The Senate also passed a resolution endorsing a request by the Vice President for Academic Affairs Chinelo Onochie, who requested that the deadline for club vouchers be extended for clubs who wish to donate their remaining funds to the PASS program, to allow for more tutoring hours in the final days of the year.
Looking back to this year’s Senate as a whole, I must say that I am quite satisfied with its numerous achievements and I believe that many in the student body share this sentiment. Aside from the highly touted PASS and ALIRRT programs, which provided free tutoring and subsidized LIRR tickets, respectively, the Senate has done a fantastic job in providing oversight over USG officials who have abused the people’s trust, such as the former USG President Romual Jean-Baptiste and Mr. Cohan.
There were also many areas where the Senate could have done a better job, with the two most glaring examples being the incredibly low voter turn out in the most recent USG general elections, in which less than one thousand undergraduates (out of over 13,000 eligible) participated. The Senate has also shown some unwillingness to listen to students when presented with legitimate concerns and complaints. While it is understandable that our elected officials may not enjoy being “preached to,” they must realize that as elected representatives they are expected to listen closely to their constituents and implement their recommendations where possible, for that is indeed their job.
Still, keeping every achievement and every stumble in mind, I am proud to say that this Senate did much more good than harm, and in my opinion, having served in the Undergraduate Student Government in some capacity for the last four years; I can definitively state that this Senate has been the best yet. Some may be surprised at my statement, given that I have arguably been the government’s chief critic throughout the last two semesters, but in reality all I have done is call matters as I saw them and let the student body know what was going on.
It would have been easy for the Senate to act as if it was in a vacuum, given the limited coverage of its work and the sparse student interest in its operations. And so, if my criticism has been harsh at times it was merely done in order to keep that body focused on its mission and its responsibility, namely doing what was best for students, something I believe the Senate has done remarkably well.
I hope these weekly letters have been informative. With some luck in the upcoming finals I shall graduate, and who knows, perhaps someone new will menace the USG Senate meetings next year. I wish all readers the best of luck on their finals, a great summer, and my best tidings to those who will be graduating and entering a new phase in their lives. Good bye!
Respectfully and sincerely yours, Esam Al-Shareffi