The election we deserve, not the election we need

By Meg Cook
Opinion Contributor

This past Tuesday, the Undergraduate Student Association Senate passed an amendment to its bylaws regarding the extracurricular involvement of USA Executive Board members. The alteration requires that members of the USA Executive Board do not sit on any other student organization’s Executive Board.  The idea behind this change in policy is that USA should be the highest priority in order to better serve the undergraduate student population. These positions, in order to positively progress in the long term, require a dedicated sacrifice from each generation of Executive Board in order for the organization to develop to a higher standard of service. These positions are also compensated by a $1,000 stipend for the year. This adds another stress of priority on each position. The initial vote was passed in a near-landslide by the senators on Tuesday, but the alteration to policy will be subject to another vote by the Senate to make it permanent within the USA bylaws.

However, student government should not impede any student’s college experience. This time in our lives has classically been characterized as a period for experimentation, experience, and learning. This is a time when it is appropriate to be inappropriate, a time to make mistakes and learn from them, and the time to develop into a mature adult without the harsh environment of the real world. We are students—this is a concept that can be lost in the effort of achieving early onset professionalism. We are students who were looking for the well-rounded experience for which Canisius is well known.  The Jesuit ideal, cura personalis, encourages us to care for and invest in the whole person. This includes any and all passions, not only those limited to student government or campus policy. It also can be said that the limited involvement in other student organizations can limit the perspective and range of empathy of the Executive Board toward other students or other student organizations. This policy change has the potential to create a greater gap between the general student population and the office of USA. We are required to take other classes in different fields to broaden our horizons in academics. Why should we restrict students from having a similar extracurricular experience? In fact, a lack of Executive Board experience could discount the value of a candidate for a USA Executive Board position.  This being a paid position, prior experience would be a consideration when evaluating the candidates.  In fact, if we were to consider this a job, any external interests or activities would not be considered the concern of the employer unless their duties or ability to do their job was compromised. The decision to continue with any activity outside professional realm would be left to the discretion of the individual. Students should have the right to choose for themselves what weight of involvement they can or cannot handle. Any evaluation of a student’s ability to hold a position on the USA Executive Board in addition to any other organization should be considered an unfair judgement of the individual’s potential.

The USA Executive Board should not represent a martyrdom of passion and interest for the perceived mission in serving the student population. The willingness to sacrifice outside student involvement isn’t in question—it’s the idea that the policy is passing judgment over all future generations of the USA Executive Board and implying that their contribution to Canisius will be less significant because it wasn’t the only contribution to Canisius. I understand the purpose behind this policy, but it does a disservice to the students to which it applies. I vehemently encourage everyone interested in this matter to speak with your representatives on the Senate to discuss any qualms you have with this policy. The Senate will vote again on this issue next Tuesday, and keep in mind that any undergraduate student is welcome to attend and participate.  The policies of the student representative body should align with the foundational values of the institution and its students. Your interpretation matters.

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