Thursday, January 09, 2020

Student Government

When I was at William and Mary, there was a debate in the student government about whether it should exist at all.  One dormitory elected representatives for the specific purpose of introducing a resolution to disband the student government.  It was introduced and debated throughout the year without resolution.  By springtime, I believe the issue dominated the discussion at every meeting, with a lot of anger. At the time, it seemed to be the long-haired radicals who were trying to upend a (not really) revered institution, as the shorter-haired and dressier elected officials of that august institution fought back against the barbarian hordes.

The radicals did have a killer argument at the end of term.  If the student government could go that many months without doing anything else, it was obviously useless.  They were right, but the student government was not disbanded, merely starting again the next autumn with a partial change of characters.  It was supposed to teach us about government, or something.  I now see that it did, or should have, though not in the manner intended.

I read today about a student government wanting to ban cafeteria trays for environmental reasons.  So they are still around, and therefore must occasionally succeed at things like this.  It's a perfect spot for virtue-signalling, come to think of it. I don't recall what resolutions were passed and actions taken in my day.  I do recall there being a lot of talk about voices being heard! but maybe that was somebody else. I'm guessing they don't provide any measurable benefit, and likely create mischief.

Update:  So we have established that a common function is setting up student fees and free concerts.  That sounds familiar - they also did free films when I was in school. 

8 comments:

james said...

At SIU one party campaigned and won (about the same time as the famous Pail and Shovel Party) on the platform that they would invite the Grateful Dead to perform on campus. (The Dead promptly quit touring for a while. I don't know if that was related.)

Thos. said...

I have degrees from two different universities and, in the entirety of the time I spent at both of them, I don't recall hearing a single word about what either student government said or did. I know there were elections, but that's about it.

Michael said...

I was part of Student Government at UNH at the same time you were at William and Mary. We actually were written up in Newsweek Magazine (which was a big deal at the time) when we debated whether student government should expand the number of student organizations that were funded from the student activity tax. We acted like true Yankees and denied expanding the reach of the funding. Our resolution was to create a fund from which non-funded organizations could request financial help for specific projects. I actually think that we did some good.

Unknown said...

Student government in my various schools got to set mandatory student fees, and then distribute the proceeds as they saw fit to student organizations, event sponsorship, and in one case Ralph Nader's local "Public Interest Research Group" affiliate. I'm not really sure what the purported benefit to students of the last was, but I had a girlfriend who worked for a while as a canvasser for the group, and they were certainly a bad and unethical employer.

Free concerts were nice, but those in charge of booking didn't seem to have much taste.

In every school I was in leadership of one or more student organizations, so the student-government was important to me in that we had to know how to phrase our annual funding request/proposal to convince this year's collection of misfits to open the funding spigot for us.

Unknown said...

In my UK university, the student government was affiliated with the "National Union of Students". So if you were elected to leadership, it was a full-time well-paid position and the Uni was obligated to give you a year-off to fulfill your duties as a "sabbatical officer" of the student union. If you could gain enough press of the right sort when doing that, you had a shot the next year of being an officer of the national union, which was pretty much a guarantee of being hired to work for a Labour MP for a few years before starting your own political career. In my time there there were always one or more ex-NUS presidents in the shadow-cabinet (if the tories were in power) or in the actual cabinet under Blair/Brown.

Sam L. said...

Getting rid of trays? Load up an arm with plates and saucers! Trays are easier, and simpler to stack in the washers. I presume plates and saucers are plastic, so no broken crockery.

Grim said...

"The radicals did have a killer argument at the end of term. If the student government could go that many months without doing anything else, it was obviously useless. They were right... It was supposed to teach us about government, or something. I now see that it did, or should have, though not in the manner intended."

Yes, that is a lesson that we should definitely learn -- and apply to all levels of government.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, I had trouble envisioning what the alternative was, too. Cloth bags? Beggar's bowl? Sitting around a communal pot?